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VENETIAN LIFE 



AUTOGRAPH 

EDITION 

II 



THIS LARGE-PAPER AUTOGRAPH EDITION 

CONSISTS OF FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY 

COPIES SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR 

THE ARTIST AND THE 

PUBLISHERS 



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VENETIAN LIFE 

BY WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY 

EDMUND H. GARRETT 

IN TWO VOLUMES 

VOLUME II 




CAMBRIDGE : PRINTED AT THE 
RIVERSIDE PRESS : MDCCCCVII 



:-M^m^m 



COPYRIGHT 1867, 187a, 189s ^"^' WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS 

COPYRIGHT 1907 BY WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS AND HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO. 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

XVII. VENETIAN HOLIDAYS i 

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HOLIDAYS — EARLY SPEC- 
TACLES AND AMUSEMENTS — A VENETIAN FESTI- 
VAL DESCRIBED BY PETRARCH — THE REGATTA 
AND ITS ORIGINS AND USAGES — TRANSLATION 
OF THE BODY OF ST. MARK TO VENICE — STATE 
VISITS TO CONVENTS AND CHURCHES — FESTIVAL 
OF THE REDENTORE AND OTHERS — THE WED- 
DING OF THE ADRIATIC — OFFICIAL THANKS- 
GIVINGS — THE PROCESSION OF CORPUS CHRISTI 
— THE RIVA DEGLI SCHIAVONI AND THE PUBLIC 
GARDENS 

XVIII. CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS 37 

CHRISTMAS WEATHER AND SENTIMENT — CURIOUS 
CHRISTMAS GIFTS — CHRISTMAS CROWDS IN THE 
STREET AND AT THE MIDNIGHT MASS OF SAN 
MOIgE — CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR'S DAYS 

XIX. LOVE-MAKING AND MARRYING; BAP- 
TISMS AND BURIALS 49 

PRACTICAL CHARACTER OF VENETIAN MARRIAGES 
IN ALL TIMES — FRIENDLY INTERVENTIONS AMONG 
THE COMMON PEOPLE — BETROTHALS AND ES- 
POUSALS AMONG THE PATRICIANS IN THE PAST — 
ACTUAL COURTSHIPS — BAPTISMAL CUSTOMS — 
FUNERALS, AND A BURIAL AT SAN MICHELE, THE 
ISLAND CEMETERY 



vi CONTENTS 



XX. VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 70 

THE TRADITIONAL HOUSE OF OTHELLO — LE- 
GENDS POPULAR AMONG THE GONDOLIERS: BIASIO 
THE SAUSAGE-MAKER, THE POOR BAKER BOY, 
AND VENERANDA PORTA — GONDOLIERS, THEIR 
AMBITIONS AND EMPLOYMENTS, THEIR MANNERS 
AND CUSTOMS — INDUSTRY OF THE VENETIANS 
— FAVORITE SCAMPS — ATTRACTIVE MADMEN — 
SUPERFINE MANNERS OF THE POOR — POLITENESS 
OF ALL CLASSES AND LOW QUARRELS — IMPAS- 
SIONED BARGAINING — SUPERABUNDANT PITY 



XXI. SOCIETY 98 

BYZANTINE ORIGIN OF VENETIAN CIVILIZATION — 
ORIENTAL SECLUSION OF WOMEN, AND ITS CONSE- 
QUENCES — SOME SOCIETY OBSERVATIONS — THE 
BEST SOCIETY IN VENICE — THE CHURCH AND 
SOCIETY — THE NOBILITY UNDER AUSTRIAN TEN- 
URE — VILLAS AND THE VILLEGGIATURA — PA- 
TRICIANS OF THE DECADENCE 



XXII. LAST YEAR IN VENICE 133 

MYSTICAL MISGIVINGS — PALAZZO GIUSTINIANI DEI 
VESCOVI AND HOW THE GIUSTINIANI FAMILY WAS 
SAVED FROM EXTINCTION — CA' FOSCARI NEXT 
DOOR — OUR APARTMENT — HOW WE PASSED THE 
TIME — THE SUBTLE INFLUENCE OF VENICE — 
THE LANDLORD, HIS NEXT FRIEND AND THE DO- 
MESTICS — STIRRING INCIDENT — THOROUGH 
ACQUAINTANCE WITH VENICE — THREE DIS- 
TINCTIVE PALACES — LAST DAYS OF OUR LAST 
YEAR 



CONTENTS vii 



XXIII. VENICE REVISITED * i68 

A SHRUNKEN EFFECT IN THE PLACE — QUARREL- 
ING GONDOLIERS — GOOD AND BAD RESULTS OF 
PROGRESS — SURVIVALS AND EXTINCTIONS OF 
FAMILIAR THINGS — THE VANISHED AUSTRIANS 

— PROUD EXPERIENCES OF THIS BOOK — A 
GLIMPSE OF HOME IN CASA FALIER — DISAP- 
POINTMENT IN PALAZZO GIUSTINIANI — FRIENDS, 
GENTLE AND SIMPLE, PRESENT AND PAST — THE 
DEAR ARMENIANS — THE SOPHISTICATED LIDO — 
UNEXPECTED HONOR FROM THE MOSAIC ART 

— INDUSTRY AND ADVERSITY — TYPE OF 
VENETIAN COLLAPSE 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

A GOTHIC PALACE frontispiece 

NEAR THE GIUDECCA page i8 

ACROSS THE BASIN OF ST. MARK 32 

A LITTLE BRIDGE AND FRUIT SHOP 42 

RIO DEI MENDICANTE — EARLY EVENING 58 

GRAND CANAL NEAR CAMPO SAN STEFANO 88 
PALAZZI BALBI AND GRIMANI 126 

RIO SAN CRISTOFORO 138 

UNDER THE RIALTO 146 

THE PIAZZETTA — NIGHT 166 

PALAZZO MANZONI 174 



VENETIAN LIFE 



VENETIAN LIFE 



XVII. VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HOLIDAYS — EARLY SPECTA- 
CLES AND AMUSEMENTS — A VENETIAN FESTIVAL 
DESCRIBED BY PETRARCH — THE REGATTA AND ITS 
ORIGINS AND USAGES — TRANSLATION OF THE BODY 
OF ST. MARK TO VENICE — STATE VISITS TO CONVENTS 
AND CHURCHES — FESTIVAL OF THE REDENTORE AND 
OTHERS — THE WEDDING OF THE ADRIATIC — OFFI- 
CIAL THANKSGIVINGS — THE PROCESSION OF CORPUS 
CHRISTI — THE RIVA DEGLI SCHIAVONI AND THE PUB- 
LIC GARDENS. 

THE national character of the Venetians was so 
largely influenced by the display and dissipa- 
tion of the frequent festivals of the Republic, 
that it cannot be fairly estimated without taking them 
into consideration, nor can the disuse of these holidays 
(of which I have heretofore spoken) be appreciated in 
all its import, without particular allusion to their number 
and nature. They formed part of the aristocratic polity 
of the old commonwealth, which substituted popular in- 
dulgence for popular liberty, and gave the people costly 
pleasures in return for the priceless rights of which they 
had been robbed, set up national pride in the place of 
patriotism, and was as well satisfied with a drunken joy 
in its subjects as if they had possessed a true content. 



VENETIAN LIFE 



Full notice of these holidays would be history' of 
Venice, for each one had its origin in some great event, 
and they were so numerous as to commemorate nearly 
every notable incident in her annals. Though they had 
nearly all a general religious character, the Church, as 
usual in Venice, only seemed to direct the ceremonies 
in its own honor, while it really ministered to the politi- 
cal glory of the oligarchy, which knew how to manage 
its priests as well as its prince and people. Indeed, it 
happened in one case, at least, that a religious anniver- 
sary was selected by the Republic as the day on which 
to put to shame before the populace certain of the 
highest dignitaries of the Church. In 1162, Ulrich, the 
Patriarch of Aquileja, seized, by a treacherous strata- 
gem, the city of Grado, then subject to Venice. The 
Venetians immediately besieged and took the city, with 
the patriarch and twelve of his canons in it, and carried 
them prisoners to the lagoons. The turbulent patriarchs 

* " Siccome," says the editor of Giustina Renier-Michiers Origins delle 
Feste Veneziane^ " siccome I'illustre Autrice ha voluto applicare al suo lavoro 
il modesto titolo di Origine delle Feste Veneziane^ e siccome questo potrebbe 
porgere un' idea assai diversa dell' opera a chi non ne ha alcuna cognizione, 
da quello che h sostanzialmente, si espone questo Epitome, perche ognun 
vegga almeno in parte, che quest' opera sarebbe del titolo di storia con- 
degna, giacche essa non e che una costante descrizione degli avvenimenti 
piu importanti e luminosi della Repubblica di Venezia." The work in ques- 
tion is one of much research and small philosophy, like most books which 
Venetians have written upon Venice ; but it has admirably served my pur- 
pose, and I am indebted to it for most of the information contained in this 
chapter. 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 3 

of Aquileja had long been disturbers of the Republic's 
dominion, and the people now determined to make an 
end of these displeasures. They refused, therefore, to 
release the patriarch, except on condition that he should 
bind himself to send them annually a bull and twelve 
fat hogs. It is not known what meaning the patriarch 
attached to this singular ceremony ; but with the Vene- 
tians the bull was typical of himself, and the swine of 
his canons, and they yearly suiTered death in these ani- 
mals, which were slaughtered during Shrovetide in the 
Piazza San Marco amid a great concourse of the people, 
in the presence of the Doge and Signory. The lock- 
smiths, and other workers in iron, had distinguished 
themselves in the recapture of Grado, and to their guild 
was allotted the honor of putting the bull and swine to 
death. Great art was shown in striking off the bull's 
head at one blow, without suffering the sword to touch 
the ground after passing through the animal's neck ; 
the swine were slain with lances. Athletic games among 
the people succeeded, and the Doge and his Senators 
attacked and destroyed, with staves, several lightly 
built wooden castles, to symbolize the abasement of 
the feudal power before the Republic. As the centuries 
advanced, this part of the ceremony, together with the 
slaughter of the swine, was disused ; in which fact Mr. 
Ruskin sees evidence of a corrupt disdain of simple and 
healthy allegory on the part of the proud doges, but in 
which I think most people will discern only a natural 
wish to discontinue in more civilized times a puerile 
barbarity. Mr. Ruskin himself finds no evidence of 



4 VENETIAN LIFE 

" state pride " in the abolition of the slaughter of the 
swine. The festival was very popular, and continued a 
long time, though I believe not till the fall of the Re- 
public. 

Another tribute, equally humiliating to those who paid 
it, was imposed upon the Paduans for an insult ofTered 
to St. Mark, and gave occasion for a national holiday, 
some fifty years after the Patriarch of Aquileja began 
atonement for his outrage. In the year 12 14, the citizens 
of Treviso made an entertainment, to which they invited 
the noble youth of the surrounding cities. In the chief 
piazza of the town a castle of wood exquisitely decorated 
was held against all comers by a garrison of the fairest 
Trevisan damsels. The weapons of defense were flowers, 
fruits, bonbons, and the bright eyes of the besieged ; 
while the missiles of attack were much the same, with 
whatever added virtue might lie in tender prayers and 
sugared supplications. Padua, Vicenza, Bassano, and 
Venice sent their gallantest youths, under their munici- 
pal banners, to take part in this famous enterprise ; and 
the attack was carried on by the leagued forces with great 
vigor, but with no eflect on the Castle of Love, as it was 
called, till the Venetians made a breach at a weak point 
These young men were better skilled in the arts of war 
than their allies ; they were richer, and had come to Tre- 
viso decked in the spoils of the recent sack of Constan- 
tinople, and at the moment they neared the castle it is 
reported that they corrupted the besieged by throwing 
handfuls of gold into the tower. Whether this is true or 
not, it is certain that the conduct of the Venetians in 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 5 

some manner roused the Paduans to insult, and that 
the hot youths came to blows. In an instant the stand- 
ard of St. Mark was thrown down and trampled under 
the feet of the furious Paduans ; blood flowed, and the 
indignant Trevisans drove the combatants out of their 
city. The spark of war spreading to the rival cities, the 
Paduans were soon worsted, and three hundred of their 
number were made prisoners. These they would will- 
ingly have ransomed at any price, but their enemies 
would not release them except on the payment of two 
white pullets for each warrior. The shameful ransom 
was paid in the Piazza, to the inextinguishable delight 
of the Venetians, who, never wanting in sharp and bit- 
ing wit, abandoned themselves to sarcastic exultation. 
They demanded that the Paduans should, like the patri- 
arch, repeat the tribute annually ; but the prudent Doge 
Ziani judged the single humiliation sufficient, and re- 
fused to establish a yearly celebration of the feast. 

II 

One of the most famous occasional festivals of Venice 
is described by Petrarch in a Latin letter to his friend 
Pietro Bolognese. It was in celebration of the reduction 
of the Greeks of Candia, an island which in 1361 had 
recently been ceded to the Republic. The Candiotes 
rose in general rebellion, but were so promptly subdued 
that the news of the outbreak scarcely anticipated the 
announcement of its suppression in Venice. Petrarch 
was at this time the guest of the Republic, and from his 
seat at the right of the Doge on the gallery of St. Mark's 



6 VENETIAN LIFE 

Church, in front of the bronze horses, he witnessed the 
chivalric shows given in the Piazza below, which was 
then unpaved, and admirably adapted for equestrian 
feats of arms. It is curious to read the poet's account of 
these in a city where there is now no four-footed beast 
larger than a dog. But in the age of chivalry even the 
Venetians were mounted, and rode up and down their 
narrow streets, and jousted in their great campos. 

Speaking of twenty-four noble and handsome youths, 
whose feats formed a chief part of a show of which he 
" does not know if in the whole world there has been 
seen the equal," Petrarch says : " It was a gentle sight to 
see so many youths decked in purple and gold, as they 
ruled with the rein and urged with the spur their coursers, 
moving in glittering harness, with iron-shod feet which 
scarcely seemed to touch the ground." And it must have 
been a noble sight, indeed, to behold all this before the 
"golden fagade of the temple," in a place so packed 
with spectators " that a grain of barley could not have 
fallen to the ground. The great piazza, the church itself, 
the towers, the roofs, the arcades, the windows, all were 
— I will not say full, but running over, walled and paved 
with people." At the right of the church was built a 
great platform, on which sat " four hundred most virtu- 
ous gentlewomen, chosen from the flower of the nobility, 
and distinguished in their dress and bearing, who, amid 
the continual homage offered them morning, noon, and 
night, presented the image of a celestial congress." Some 
noblemen, come hither by chance, "from the part of 
Britain, comrades and kinsmen of their king, were pre- 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 7 

sent," and attracted the notice of the poet. The feasts 
lasted many days, but on the third day Petrarch excused 
himself to the Doge, pleading, he says, his " ordinary 
occupations, already known to all." 

Among remoter feasts in honor of national triumphs, 
was one on the Day of the Annunciation, commemora- 
tive of the removal of the capital of the Venetian isles 
to Rialto from Malamocco, after King Pepin had burnt 
the place, and when, advancing on Venice, he was met 
in the lagoons and beaten by the islanders and the tides : 
these by their recession stranding his boats in the mud, 
and those falling upon his helpless host with the fury of 
an insulted and imperiled people. The Doge annually 
assisted at mass in St. Mark's in honor of the victory, 
but not long afterward the celebration of it ceased, with 
that of a precisely similar defeat of the Hungarians, who 
had just descended from Asia into Europe. In 1339 
there were great rejoicings in the Piazza for the peace 
with Mastino della Scala, who, beaten by the Republic, 
ceded his city of Treviso to her. 

Probably the most splendid of the occasional festivals 
was that held for the Venetian share of the great Chris- 
tian victory at Lepanto over the Turks. All orders of 
the State took part in it ; but the most notable feature 
of the celebration was the roofing of the Merceria, all 
the way from St. Mark's to Rialto, with fine blue cloth, 
studded with golden stars to represent the firmament, as 
the shopkeepers imagined it. The pictures of the famous 
painters of that day, Titian, Tintoretto, Palma, and the 
rest, were exposed under this canopy, at the end near 



8 VENETIAN LIFE 

Rialto. The Venetian victories over the Turks at the 
Dardanelles were celebrated by a regatta, in 1658 ; and 
Morosini's brilliant reconquest of the Morea, in 1688, 
was the occasion of other magnificent shows. 

Ill 

The whole world has now adopted, with various modi- 
fications, the picturesque and exciting pastime of the 
regatta, which, according to Mutinelli,' originated among 
the lagoons at a very early period, from a peculiar fea- 
ture in the military discipline of the Republic. A target 
for practice with the bow and cross-bow was set up every 
week on the beach at the Lido, and nobles and plebeians 
rowed thither in barges of thirty oars, vying with each 
other in the speed and skill with which the boats were 
driven. To divert the popular discontent that followed 
the Serrar del Consiglio and the suppression of Baja- 
monte Tiepolo's conspiracy early in the fourteenth cen- 
tury, the proficiency arising from this rivalry was turned 
to account, and the spectacle of the regatta was insti- 
tuted. Agreeably, however, to the aristocratic spirit of 
the newly established oligarchy, the patricians withdrew 
from the lists, and the regatta became the affair exclu- 
sively of the gondoliers. In other Italian cities, where 
horse and donkey races were the favorite amusement, 
the riders were of both sexes ; and now at Venice women 
also entered into the rivalry of the regatta. But in gal- 
lant deference to their weakness, they were permitted 
to begin the course at the mouth of the Grand Canal 

' Annali Urbani di Venezia, 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 9 

before the Doganna, while the men were obliged to start 
from the Public Gardens. They followed the Grand Ca- 
nal to its opposite extremity, beyond the present rail- 
way station, and there doubling a pole planted in the 
water near the Ponte della Croce, returned to the com- 
mon goal before the Palazzo Foscari. Here was erected 
an ornate scaffolding to which the different prizes were 
attached. The first boat carried off a red banner ; the 
next received a green flag ; the third, a blue ; and the 
fourth, a yellow one. With each of these was given a 
purse, and with the last was added, by way of gibe, a live 
pig, a picture of which was painted on the yellow ban- 
ner. Every regatta included five courses, in which sin- 
gle and double oared boats and single and double oared 
gondolas successively competed, — the fifth contest be- 
ing that in which the women participated with two-oared 
boats. Four prizes like those described were awarded to 
the winners in each course. 

The regatta was celebrated with all the pomp which 
the superb city could assume. As soon as the govern- 
ment announced that it was to take place, the prepara- 
tions of the champions began. **From that time the 
gondolier ceased to be a servant ; he became almost an 
adoptive son ; " ' his master giving him every possible 
assistance and encouragement in the daily exercises by 
which he trained himself for the contest, and his parish 
priest visiting him in his own house, to bless his person, 
his boat, and the image of the Madonna or saint at- 
tached to the gondola. When the great day arrived the 

' Feste Veneziane. 



lo VENETIAN LIFE 

Canalazzo swarmed with boats of every kind. **A11 the 
trades and callings," says Giustina Renier-Michiel/ with 
that pride in the Venetian past which does not always 
pass from verbosity to eloquence, ** had each its boats 
appropriately mounted and adorned ; and private socie- 
ties filled an hundred more. The chief families among 
the nobility appeared in their boats, on which they had 
lavished their taste and wealth.'^ The rowers were dressed 
with the most profuse and elaborate luxury, and the 
barges were made to represent historical and mytho- 
logical conceptions. "To this end the builders employed 
carving and sculpture, together with all manner of costly 
stuffs of silk and velvet, gorgeous fringes and tassels of 
silver and gold, flowers, fruits, shrubs, mirrors, furs, and 
plumage of rare birds. . . . Young patricians, in fleet 
and narrow craft, propelled by swift rowers, preceded 
the champions and cleared the way for them, obliging 
the spectators to withdraw on either side. . . . They 
knelt on sumptuous cushions in the prows of their gon- 
dolas, cross-bow in hand, and launched little pellets of 
plaster at the directors of such obstinate boats as failed 
to obey their orders to retire. . . . 

"To augment the brilliancy of the regatta the nature 
of the place concurred. Let us imagine that superb 
canal, flanked on either side by a long line of edifices 
of every sort ; with great numbers of marble palaces, — 
nearly all of noble and majestic structure, some admir- 
able for an antique and Gothic taste, some for the rich- 
est Greek and Roman architecture, — their windows and 

* Feste Veneziane. 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS ii 

balconies decked with damasks, stuffs of the Levant, 
tapestries, and velvets, the vivid colors of which were 
animated still more by borders and fringes of gold, and 
on which leaned beautiful women richly dressed and 
wearing tremulous and glittering jewels in their hair. 
Wherever the eye turned, it beheld a vast multitude at 
doorways, on the rivas, and even on the roofs. Some of 
the spectators occupied scaffoldings erected at favor- 
able points along the sides of the canal ; and the patri- 
cian ladies did not disdain to leave their palaces, and, 
entering their gondolas, lose themselves among the in- 
finite number of the boats. . . . 

" The cannons give the signal of departure. The boats 
dart over the water with the rapidity of lightning. . . . 
They advance and fall behind alternately. One champion 
who seems to yield the way to a rival suddenly leaves 
him in the rear. The shouts of his friends and kinsmen 
hail his advantage, while others, already passing him, 
force him to redouble his efforts. Some weaker ones 
succumb midway, exhausted. . . . They withdraw, and 
the kindly Venetian populace will not aggravate their 
shame with jeers ; the spectators glance at them com- 
passionately, and turn again to those still in the lists. 
Here and there they encourage them by waving hand- 
kerchiefs, and the women toss their shawls in the air. 
Each patrician following close upon his gondolier's boat, 
incites him with his voice, salutes him by name, and flat- 
ters his pride and spirit. . . . The water foams under 
the repeated strokes of the oars ; it leaps up in spray 
and falls in showers on the backs of the rowers already 



12 VENETIAN LIFE 

dripping with their own sweat. ... At last behold the 
dauntless mortal who seizes the red banner I His rival 
had almost clutched it, but one mighty stroke of the oar 
gave him the victory. . . . The air reverberates with a 
clapping of hands so loud that at the remotest point on 
the canal the moment of triumph is known. The victors 
plant on their agile boat the conquered flag, and instead 
of thinking to rest their weary arms, take up the oars 
again and retrace their course to receive congratula- 
tions and applause." 

The regattas were by no means of frequent occur- 
rence, for only forty-one took place during some five cen- 
turies. The first was given in 13 15, and the last in 1857, 
in honor of the luckless Archduke Maximilian's marriage 
with Princess Charlotte of Belgium. The most sumptu- 
ous and magnificent regatta of all was that given to 
the city in the year 1686, by Duke Ernest of Brunswick. 
This excellent prince, having sold a great part of his 
subjects to the Republic for use in its wars against the 
Turk, generously spent their price in the costly and edi- 
fying entertainments of which Venice had already be- 
come the scene. The Judgment of Paris and the Tri- 
umph of the Marine Goddesses had been represented 
at his expense on the Grand Canal, with great accept- 
ance, and now the Triumph of Neptune formed a prin- 
cipal feature in the gayeties of his regatta. Nearly the 
whole of the salt-water mythology was employed in 
the ceremony. An immense wooden whale supporting 
a structure of dolphins and Tritons, surmounted by a 
statue of Neptune, and drawn by sea-horses, moved from 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 13 

the Piazzetta to the Palazzo Foscari, where numbers of 
Sirens sported about in every direction till the regatta 
began. The whole company of the deities, very splen- 
didly arrayed, then joined them as spectators, and be- 
haved in the manner affected by gods and goddesses on 
these occasions. Mutinelli ' recounts the story with many 
sighs and sneers and great exactness ; but it is not inter- 
esting. 

IV 

The miraculous recovery of the body of St. Mark, in 
1094, after it had been lost for nearly two centuries, 
created a festive anniversary which was celebrated for 
a while with great religious pomp ; but the rejoicings 
were not separately continued in after years. The festival 
was consolidated (if one may so speak) with two others 
in honor of the same saint, and the triple occasions 
were commemorated by a single holiday. The holidays 
annually distinguished by civil or ecclesiastical displays 
were twenty-five in number, of which only eleven were 
of religious origin, though all were of partly religious 
observance. One of the most curious and interesting 
of the former was of the earliest date, and was contin- 
ued till the last years of the Republic. In 596 Narses, 
the general of the Greek Emperor, was furnished by 
the Venetians with means of transport by sea from 
Aquileja to Ravenna for the army which he was lead- 
ing against the Ostrogoths ; and he made a vow that, if 
successful in his campaign, he would requite their gen- 
erosity by erecting two churches in Venice. Accordingly, 

* Annali Urbani. 



14 VENETIAN LIFE 

when he had beaten the Ostrogoths, he caused two vo- 
tive churches to be built, — one to St. Theodore, on the 
site of the present St. Mark's Church, and another to 
San Geminiano, on the opposite bank of the canal which 
then flowed there. In lapse of time the citizens, wish- 
ing to enlarge their Piazza, removed the church of San 
Geminiano back as far as the present Fabbrica Nuova, 
which Napoleon built on the site of the demolished 
temple, between the western ends of the New and Old 
Procuratie. The removal was effected without the pope's 
leave, which had been asked, but was refused in these 
words: "The Holy Father cannot sanction the commis- 
sion of a sacrilege, though he can pardon it afterwards." 
The pontiff, therefore, imposed on the Venetians for 
penance that the Doge should pay an annual visit for- 
ever to the church. On the occasion of this visit the parish 
priest met him at the door, and offered the holy water 
to him ; and then the Doge, having assisted at mass, 
marched with his Signory and the clergy of the church 
to its original site, where the clergy demanded that it 
should be rebuilt, and the Doge replied with the pro- 
mise, ** Next year." A red stone was set in the pave- 
ment to mark the spot where the Doge renewed this 
never-fulfilled promise.' The old church was destroyed 

' As the author of the Feste Veneziane tells this story it is less dramatic 
and characteristic The clergy, she says, reminded the Doge of the occasion 
of his visit, and his obligation to renew it the following year, which he pro- 
mised to do. I cling to the version in the text, for it seems to me that the 
Doge's perpetual promise to rebuild the church was a return in kind for the 
pope's astute answer to the petition asking him to allow its removal. So good 
a thing ought to be history. 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 15 

by fire, and Sansovino built, in 1506, the temple thrown 
down by Napoleon to make room for his palace. 

The 31st of January, on which day in 828 the body 
of St. Mark was brought from Alexandria to Venice, is 
still observed, though the festival has lost all the splen- 
dor which it received from civil intervention. For a 
thousand years the day was hallowed by a solemn mass 
in St. Mark's, at which the Doge and his Signory as- 
sisted. 

V 

The chief of the State annually paid a number of fes- 
tive visits, which were made the occasion of as many 
holidays. To the convent of San Zaccaria he went in 
commemoration of the visit paid to that retreat by Pope 
Benedict III, in 855, when the pontiff was so charmed 
by the piety and goodness of the fair nuns that, after 
his return to Rome, he sent them great store of relics 
and indulgences. It thus became one of the most popu- 
lar of the holidays, and the people repaired in great 
multitude with their Doge to the convent, on each re- 
currence of the day, that they might see the relics and 
buy the indulgences. The nuns were of the richest and 
noblest families of the city, and on the Doge's first visit 
they presented him with that bonnet which became the 
symbol of his sovereignty. It was wrought of pure gold, 
and set with precious stones of great beauty and value ; 
and in order that the State might never seem forgetful 
of the munificence which bestowed the gift, the bonnet 
was annually taken from the treasury and shown by the 
Doge himself to the Sisters of San Zaccaria. The Doge 



i6 VENETIAN LIFE 

Pietro Tradonico, to whom the bonnet was given, was 
killed in a popular tumult on this holiday, while going 
to the convent. 

There was likewise a vast concourse of people and 
traffic in indulgences at the church of Santa Maria della 
Carita (now the Academy of Fine Arts), on the anni- 
versary of the day when Pope Alexander III, in 1177, 
flying from the Emperor Barbarossa, found refuge in 
that monastery.' He bestowed great privileges upon it, 
and the Venetians honored the event to the end of their 
national existence. 

One of the rare occasions during the year when the 
Doge appeared officially in public after nightfall, was 
on St. Stephen's Day. He then repaired at dusk in his 
gilded barge, with splendid attendance of nobles and 
citizens, to the island church of San Giorgio Maggiore, 
whither, in 1009, the body of St. Stephen was brought 
from Constantinople. On the first of May the Doge 
visited the Convent of the Virgins (the convent build- 
ing now forms part of the Arsenal), where the abbess 
presented him with a bouquet, and graceful and pleas- 
ing ceremonies took place in commemoration of the 
erection and endowment of the church. The head of 
the State also annually assisted at mass in St. Mark's, 
to celebrate the arrival in Venice of St. Isidore's body, 
which the Doge Domenico Michiel brought with him 
from the East, at the end of twenty-six years' war 

* Selvatico and Lazari, in their admirable Guida Artistica e Storica di 
Venezia^ say that the pope merely lodged in the monastery on the day when 
he signed the treaty of peace with Barbarossa. 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 17 

against the infidels ; and, finally, after the year 1485, 

when the Venetians stole the bones of San Rocco from 

the Milanese, and deposited them in the newly finished 

Scuola di San Rocco, a ducal visit was annually paid to 

that edifice. 

VI 

Two only of the national religious festivals yet survive 
the Republic, — that of the church of the Redentore 
on the Giudecca, and that of the church of the Salute on 
the Grand Canal, — both votive churches, built in com- 
memoration of the city's deliverances from the pest in 
1578 and 1630. In their general features the celebra- 
tions of the two holidays are much alike ; but that of 
the Salute is the less important of the two, and is more 
entirely religious in its character. A bridge of boats is 
annually thrown across the Canalazzo, and on the day 
of the Purification the people throng to the Virgin's 
shrine to express their gratitude for her favor. This 
gratitude was so strong immediately after the cessation 
of the pest in 1630 that the Senate, while the architects 
were preparing their designs for the present church, 
caused a wooden one to be built on its site, and conse- 
crated with ceremonies of singular splendor. On the 
Festa del Redentore (the third Sunday of July) a bridge 
of boats crosses the great canal of the Giudecca, and 
vast throngs constantly pass it, day and night. But 
though the small tradesmen who deal in fried cakes, 
and in apples, peaches, pears, and other fruits, make 
intolerable uproar behind their booths on the long quay 
before the church; though the venders of mulberries 



i8 VENETIAN LIFE 

(for which the gardens of the Giudecca are famous) fill 
the air with their sweet jargoning (their cries are like 
the shrill notes of so many singing-birds) ; though thou- 
sands of people pace up and down, and come and go 
upon the bridge, yet the Festa del Redentore has now 
none of the old-time gayety it wore when the Venetians 
thronged the gardens, and feasted, sang, danced, and 
flirted the night away, and at dawn went in their fleets 
of many-lanterned boats, covering the lagoon with 
fairy light, to behold the sunrise on the Adriatic Sea. 

Besides the religious festivals mentioned, there were 
five banquets annually given by the State on the sev- 
eral days of St. Mark, St. Vitus, St. Jerome, and St. 
Stephen, and the Day of the Ascension, all of which 
were attended with religious observances. Good Friday 
was especially hallowed by church processions in each 
of the campos ; and St. Martha's Day was occasion 
for junketings on the Giudecca Canal, when a favorite 
fish, being in season, was devotionally eaten. 

The civil and political holidays which lasted till the 
fall of the Republic were eleven. One of the earliest was 
the anniversary of the recapture of the Venetian Brides, 
who were snatched from their bridegrooms at the altar 
of San Pietro di Castello, by Triestine pirates. The class 
of citizens most distinguished in the punishment of the 
abductors was the trade of carpenters, who lived chiefly 
in the parish of Santa Maria Formosa ; and when the 
Doge, in his gratitude, bade them demand any reason- 
able grace, the trade asked that he should pay their 
quarter an annual visit. " But if it rains ? " said the 



^Mm^i, 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 19 

Doge. "We will give you a hat to cover you," 
answered the carpenters. "And if I am hungry?" 
" We will give you to eat and drink." So when the 
Doge made his visit on the day of the Virgin's Puri- 
fication, he was given a hat of gilded straw, a bottle 
of wine, and loaves of bread. On this occasion the State 
bestowed dowers upon twelve young girls among the 
fairest and best of Venice (chosen two from each of the 
six sections of the city), who marched in procession to 
the church of Santa Maria Formosa. But as time passed 
the custom lost its simplicity and purity : the pretty girls 
were said to make eyes at handsome youths in the 
crowd, and scandals occurred in public. Twelve wooden 
figures were then substituted, but the procession in 
which they were carried was followed by a disgusted 
and hooting populace, and assailed with a shower of 
turnips. The festivities, which used to last eight days, 
with incredible magnificence, fell into discredit, and were 
finally abolished during the war when the Genoese took 
Chioggia and threatened Venice, under Doria. This was 
the famous Festa delle Marie. 

VII 

In 997 the Venetians beat the Narentines at sea, and 
annexed all Istria, as far as Dalmatia, to the Republic. 
On the day of the Ascension, of the same year, the 
Doge, for the first time, celebrated the dominion of Venice 
over the Adriatic, though it was not till some two hun- 
dred years later that the Pope Alexander III blessed the 
famous espousals, and confirmed the Republic in the 



20 VENETIAN LIFE 

possession of the sea forever. **What," cries Giustina 
Renier-Michiel, turning to speak of the holiday thus es- 
tablished, and destined to be the proudest in the Vene- 
tian calendar, " what shall I say of the greatest of all our 
solemnities, that of the Ascension ? Alas ! I myself saw- 
Frenchmen and Venetians, full of derision and insult, 
combine to dismantle the Bucintoro and burn it for the 
gold upon it I" ' This was the nuptial-ship in which the 
Doge went to wed the sea, and the patriotic lady tells 
us concerning the Bucintoro of her day : "It was in the 
form of a galley, and two hundred feet long, with two 
decks. The first of these was occupied by an hundred 
and sixty rowers, the handsomest and strongest of the 
fleet, who sat four men to each oar, and there awaited 
their orders ; forty other sailors completed the crew. 
The upper deck was divided lengthwise by a partition, 
pierced with arched doorways, ornamented with gilded 
figures, and covered with a roof supported by caryatides 
-^ the whole surmounted by a canopy of crimson velvet 
embroidered with gold. Under this were ninety seats, 
and at the stern a still richer chamber for the Doge's 
throne, over which drooped the banner of St. Mark. The 

^ That which follows is a translation of the report given by Cesare Cantu, 
in his Grande Illustrazione del Lombardo- Veneto, of a conversation with the 
author of Feste Veneziane. It is not necessary to remind readers of Venetian his- 
tory that Renier and Michiel were of the foremost names in the Golden Book. 
She who bore them both was born before the fall of the Republic which she 
so much loved and lamented, and no doubt she felt more than the grief she 
expresses for the fate of the last Bucintoro. It was destroyed, as she de- 
scribes, in 1796, by the French Republicans and Venetian Democrats after 
the abdication of the oligarchy ; but a fragment of its mast yet remains, and 
is to be seen in the museum of the Arsenal. 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 21 

prow was double-beaked, and the sides of the vessel 
were enriched with figures of Justice, Peace, Sea, Land, 
and other allegories and ornaments. 

" Let me imagine those times — it is the habit of the 
old. At midday, having heard mass in the chapel of the 
Collegio, the Doge descends the Giant's Stairs, issues 
from the Porta della Carta,' and passes the booths of 
the mercers and glass-venders erected for the fair be- 
ginning that evening. He is preceded by eight standard- 
bearers with the flags of the Republic, — red, blue, white, 
and purple, — given by Alexander III to the Doge Ziani. 
Six trumpets of silver, borne by as many boys, mix their 
notes with the clangor of the bells of the city. Behind 
come the retinues of the ambassadors in sumptuous liv- 
eries, and the fifty Comandadori in their flowing blue 
robes and red caps ; then follow musicians, and the 
squires of the Doge in black velvet ; then the guards of 
the Doge, two chancellors, the secretary of the Pregadi, 
a deacon clad in purple and bearing a wax taper, six 
canons, three parish priests in their sacerdotal robes, 
and the Doge's chaplain dressed in crimson. The grand 
chancellor is known by his crimson vesture. Two squires 
bear the Doge's chair and the cushion of cloth of gold. 
And the Doge — the representative, and not the master 
of his country ; the executor, and not the maker of the 
laws ; citizen and prince, revered and guarded, sovereign 
of individuals, servant of the State — comes clad in a 
long mantle of ermine, cassock of blue, and vest and 

* The gate of the Ducal Palace which opens upon the Piazzetta next St. 
Mark's. 



22 VENETIAN LIFE 

hose of tocca d'oro,^ with the golden bonnet on his head, 
under the umbrella borne by a squire, and surrounded 
by the foreign ambassadors and the papal nuncio, while 
his drawn sword is carried by a patrician recently des- 
tined for some government of land or sea, and soon to 
depart upon his mission. In the rear comes a throng of 
personages, — the grand captain of the city, the judges, 
the three chiefs of the Forty, the Avogodori, the three 
chiefs of the Council of Ten, the three censors, and the 
sixty of the Senate with the sixty of the Aggiunta, all 
in robes of crimson silk. 

" On the Bucintoro, each takes the post assigned him, 
and the prince ascends the throne. The Admiral of the 
Arsenal and the Lido stands in front as pilot ; at the 
helm is the Admiral of Malamacco, and around him 
the ship-carpenters of the Arsenal. The Bucintoro, amid 
redoubled clamor of bells and roar of cannon, quits the 
riva and niajestically plows the lagoon, surrounded by 
innumerable boats of every form and size. 

"The Patriarch, who had already sent several vases 
of flowers to do courtesy to the company in the Bucin- 
toro, joins them at the island of Sant' Elena, and sprinkles 
their course with holy water. So they reach the port of 
Lido, whence they formerly issued out upon the open 
sea ; but in my time they paused there, turning the stern 
of the vessel to the sea. Then the Doge, amid the thun- 
ders of the artillery of the fort, took the ring blessed by 
the Patriarch, — who now emptied a cup of holy water 
into the sea, — and, advancing into a little gallery be- 

* A gauze of gold and silk. 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 23 

hind his throne, threw the ring into the waves, pro- 
nouncing the words, Desponsamus te^ marey in signum 
veri perpetuique dominii. Proceeding then to the church 
of San Nicoletto, they Hstened to a solemn mass, and re- 
turned to Venice, where the dignitaries were entertained 
at a banquet, while the multitude peacefully dispersed 
among the labyrinths of the booths erected for the fair.'* ' 

VIII 

This fair, which was established as early as 1180, was 
an industrial exhibition of the arts and trades peculiar 
to Venice, and was repeated annually, with increasing 
ostentation, till the end, in 1796. Indeed, the feasts of 
the Republic at last grew so numerous that it became 
necessary, as we have seen before, to make a single 
holiday pay a double or triple debt of rejoicing. When 

* One of the sops thrown to the populace on this occasion, as we learn 
from Mutinelli, was the admission to the train of gilded barges following 
the Bucintoro of a boat bearing the chief of the Nicolotti, one of the fac- 
tions into which from time immemorial the lower classes of Venice had 
been divided. The distinction between the two parties seems to have been 
purely geographical ; for there is no apparent reason why a man should 
have belonged to the Castellani except that he lived in the eastern quarter 
of the city, or to the Nicolotti, except that he lived in the western quarter. 
The government encouraged a rivalry not dangerous to itself, and for a long 
time the champions of the two sections met annually and beat each other 
with rods. The form of contest was afterwards modified, and became a 
struggle for the possession of certain bridges, in which the defeated were 
merely thrown into the canals. I often passed the scene of the fiercest of 
these curious battles at San Bamab^, where the Ponte de Pugni is adorned 
with four stone feet let into the pavement, and defying each other from 
the four corners of the bridge. Finally, even these contests were given up, 
and the Castellani and Nicolotti spent their rivalry in acrobatic feats. 



24 VENETIAN LIFE 

the Venetians recovered Chioggia after the terrible war 
of 1380, the Senate refused to yield them Sinother /es^a, 
and merely ordered that St. Mark's Day should be there- 
after observed with some added ceremony : there was 
already one festival commemorative of a triumph over 
the Genoese (that of San Giovanni Decollato, on whose 
day, in 1358, the Venetians beat the Genoese at Negro- 
ponte), and the Senate declared that this was sufficient. 
A curious custom, however, on the Sunday after Ascen- 
sion, celebrated a remoter victory over the same enemies, 
to which it is hard to attach any historic probability. It 
is not known exactly when the Genoese in immense force 
penetrated to Poveglia (one of the small islands of the 
lagoons), nor why, being there, they stopped to ask the 
islanders the best way of getting to Venice. But tradi- 
tion says that the sly Povegliesi persuaded these silly 
Genoese that the best method of navigating the lagoons 
was by means of rafts, which they constructed for them, 
anti on which they sent them afloat. About the time 
the Venetians came out to meet the armada, the withes 
binding the members of the rafts gave way, and the 
Genoese who were not drowned in the tides stuck in 
the mud, and were cut in pieces like so many melons. 
No one will be surprised to learn that not a soul of them 
escaped, and that only the Povegliesi lived to tell the 
tale. Special and considerable privileges were conferred 
on them for their part in this exploit, and were annually 
confirmed by the Doge, when a deputation of the island- 
ers called on him in his palace, and hugged and kissed 
the devoted prince. 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 25 

People who will sentimentalize the pigeons of St. 
Mark's may like to know that they have been settled 
in the city ever since 877. After the religious services 
on Palm Sunday, it was anciently the custom of the 
sacristans of St. Mark's to release doves fettered with 
fragments of paper, and thus partly disabled from flight, 
for the people to scramble for in the Piazza. The people 
fatted such of the birds as they caught, and ate them 
at Easter, but those pigeons which escaped took refuge 
in the roof of the church, where they gradually assumed 
a certain sacredness of character, and increased to enor- 
mous numbers. They were fed by provision of the Re- 
public, and being neglected at the time of its fall, many 
of them were starved. But they now flourish on a be- 
quest left by a pious lady for their maintenance, and on 
the largess of grain and polenta constantly bestowed by 

strangers. 

IX 

Besides the holidays mentioned, the 6th of Decem- 
ber was religiously observed in honor of the taking of 
Constantinople, the Doge assisting at mass in the ducal 
chapel of St. Nicholas. He also annually visited, with 
his Signory in the state barges, and with great con- 
course of people, the church of San Vito on the 15th of 
June, in memory of the change of the government from 
a democracy to an oligarchy, and of the suppression of 
Bajamonte Tiepolo's conspiracy. On St. Isidore's Day 
he went with his Signory, and the religious confra- 
ternities, in torchlight procession, to hear mass at St. 
Mark's in celebration of the failure of Marin Falier's 



26 VENETIAN LIFE 

plot. On the 17th of January he visited by water the 

hospital erected for invalid soldiers and sailors, and thus 

commemorated the famous defense of Scutari against 

the Turks, in 1413. For the peace of 15 16, concluded 

after the dissolution of the League of Cambray, he went 

in his barge to the church of Santa Marina, who had 

potently exerted her influence for the preservation of 

the Republic against allied France, Austria, Spain, and 

Rome. On St. Jerome's Day, when the newly-elected 

members of the Council of Ten took their seats, the Doge 

entertained them with a banquet, and there were great 

popular rejoicings over an affair in which the people had 

no interest. 

X 

It is by a singular caprice of fortune that, while not 
only all the Venetian holidays in anywise connected 
with the glory of the Republic, but also those which pe- 
culiarly signalized her piety and gratitude, have ceased 
to be, a festival common to the whole Catholic world 
should still be observed in Venice with extraordinary 
display. On the day of Corpus Christi there is a superb 
ecclesiastical procession in the Piazza. 

The great splendor of the solemnization is said to 
date from the times when Enrico Dandolo and his fellow 
Crusaders so far forgot their purpose of taking Pales- 
tine from the infidels as to take Constantinople from the 
schismatics. Up to that period the day of Corpus Christi 
was honored by a procession from what was then the 
Cathedral of San Pietro di Castello ; but now all the 
thirty parishes of the city, with their hundred churches, 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 27 

have part in the procession, which is of such great 
length as to take some two hours in its progress 
round the Piazza 

Several days before the holiday workmen begin to 
build, within the Place of St. Mark, the colonnade 
through which the procession is to pass ; they roof it 
with blue cotton cloth, and adorn it with rolls of paste- 
board representing garlands of palm. At last, on the 
festive morning, the dwellers on the Grand Canal are 
drawn to their balconies by the apparition of boatloads 
of facchini, gorgeous in scarlet robes, and bearing ban- 
ners, painted candles, and other symbols of devotion, 
with which they pass to the Piazzetta, and thence into 
St. Mark's. They reappear presently, and, with a guard 
of Austrian troops to clear the way before them, begin 
their march under the canopy of the colonnade. 

When you have seen the Place of St. Mark by night 
your eye has tasted its most delicate delight. But then 
it is the delight given by a memory only, and it touches 
you with sadness. You must see the Piazza to-day, — 
every window fluttering with rich stuffs and vivid colors ; 
the three great flagstafFs ' hanging their heavy flags ; 
the brilliant square alive with a holiday population, 
with resplendent uniforms, with Italian gesture and 
movement, and that long glittering procession, bear- 
ing slowly on the august paraphernalia of the Church, — 
you must see all this before you can enter into the old 
heart of Venetian magnificence, and feel its life about 
you. 

* Once bearing the standards of Cyprus, Candia, and Venice. 



28 VENETIAN LIFE 

To-day, the ancient church of San Pietro di Castello 
comes first in the procession, and, with a proud humil- 
ity, the Basilica San Marco last. Before each parochial 
division goes a banner displaying the picture or distinct- 
ive device of its titular saint, under the shadow of which 
chants a priest ; there are the hosts of the different 
churches, and the gorgeous canopies under which they 
are elevated ; then come facchini dressed in scarlet and 
bearing the painted candles or the long carved and gilded 
candlesticks ; and again facchini delicately robed in 
vestments of the purest white linen, with caps of azure, 
green, and purple, and shod with sandals or white shoes, 
carrying other apparatus of worship. Each banner and 
candlestick has a fluttering leaf of tinsel paper attached 
to it, and the procession makes a soft rustling as it 
passes. The matter-of-fact character of the external 
Church walks between those symbolists, the candle- 
bearers, in the form of persons who gather the dropping 
fatness of the candles, and deposit it in a vase carried 
for that purpose. Citizens march in the procession with 
candles ; and there are charity schools which also take 
part, and sing in the harsh, shrill manner of which only 
little boys who have their heads closely shorn are cap- 
able. 

On all this we looked down from a window of the 
Old Procuratie, — of course with that calm sense of su- 
periority which people are apt to have in regarding the 
solemnities of a religion different from their own. But 
that did not altogether prevent us from enjoying what 
was really beautiful and charming in the scene. I thought 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 29 

most of the priests, very good and gentle looking, — and, 
in all respects they were much pleasanter to the eye than 
the monks of the Carmelite order, who, in shaving their 
heads to simulate the Saviour's crown of thorns, produce 
a hideous burlesque of the divine humiliation. Yet many 
even of these had earnest and sincere faces, and I could 
not think so much as I ought, perhaps, of their idle life, 
and the fleas in their coarse brown cloaks. I confess, in- 
deed, I felt rather a sadness than an indignation at all 
that self-sacrifice to an end of which I could but dimly 
see the usefulness. With some things in this grand spec- 
tacle we were wholly charmed, and doubtless had most 
delight in the little child who personated John the Bap- 
tist, and who was quite naked, but for a fleece folded 
about him : he bore the cross-headed staff in one small 
hand, and led with the other a lamb much tied up with 
blue ribbon. Here and there in the procession little 
girls, exquisitely dressed, and gifted by fond mothers 
with wings and aureoles, walked, scattering flowers. I 
likewise greatly relished the lively holiday air of a com- 
pany of airy old men, the pensioners of some charity, 
who, in their white linen trousers and blue coats, formed 
a prominent feature of the display. Far from being 
puffed up with their consequence, they gossiped cheer- 
fully with the spectators in the pauses of the march, and 
made jests to each other in that light-hearted, careless 
way observable in old men taken care of, and with no- 
thing before them worth speaking of but to die. The 
honest facchini who bore the candles were equally affable, 
and even freer with their jokes. But in this they formed 



30 VENETIAN LIFE 

a fine contrast to here and there a closely hooded de- 
votee, who, with hidden face and silent lips, was carry- 
ing a taper for religion, and not, like them, for money. 
I liked the great good-natured crowd, so orderly and 
amiable ; and I enjoyed even that old citizen in the pro- 
cession who, when the Patriarch gave his blessing, found 
it inconvenient to kneel, and compromised by stretch- 
ing one leg a great way out behind him. These things, 
indeed, quite took my mind off the splendors ; and I let 
the canopy of the Scuola di San Rocco (worth 40,000 
ducats) go by with scarce a glance, and did not bestow 
much more attention upon the brilliant liveries of the 
Patriarch's servants, — though the appearance of these 
ecclesiastical flunkies is far more impressive than that of 
any of their secular brethren. They went gorgeously 
before the Patriarch, who was surrounded by the richly 
dressed clergy of St. Mark's, and by clouds of incense 
rising from the smoking censers. He walked under the 
canopy, in his cardinal's robes, with his eye fixed upon 
the Host. 

All at once the procession halted, and the Patriarch 
blessed the crowd, which knelt in a profound silence. 
Then the military band before him struck up an air 
from " Un Ballo in Maschera ; " the procession moved 
on to the cathedral, and the crowd melted away. 

XI 
The once magnificent day of the Ascension the Vene- 
tians now honor by closing all shop-doors behind them 
and putting all thought of labor out of their minds, and 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 31 

going forth to enjoy themselves in the mild, inexplosive 
fashion which seems to satisfy Italian nature. It is the 
same on the other feast-days : then the city sinks into 
profounder quiet ; only the bells are noisy, and where 
their clangor is so common as in Venice, seem at last to 
make friends with the general stillness, and disturb none 
but people of untranquil minds. We always go to the 
Piazza San Marco when we seek pleasure, and now, for 
eight days only of the whole year, we have there the 
great spectacle of the Adoration of the Magi, performed 
every hour by automata within the little golden-railed 
gallery on the fagade of the Giant's Clock Tower. There 
the Virgin sits above the azure circle of the zodiac, all 
heavily gilded, and holding the Child, equally splendid. 
Through the doors on either side, usually occupied by 
the illuminated figures of the hours, appears the proces- 
sion, and disappears. The stately giant on the summit 
of the tower, at the hither side of the great bell, solemnly 
strikes the hour — as a giant should who has struck it 
for centuries — with a grand, whole-arm movement, and 
a slow, muscular pride. We look up, — we tourists of 
the red-backed books ; we peasant girls radiant with con- 
verging darts of silver piercing the masses of our thick 
black hair ; we Austrian soldiers in white coats and blue 
tights ; we voiceful sellers of the cherries of Padua, and 
we calm loafers about the many-pillared base of the 
church, — we look up and see the Adoration. First, the 
trumpeter, blowing the world news of the fact; then 
the first king, turning softly to the Virgin, and bowing; 
then the second, that enthusiastic devotee, the second, 



32 VENETIAN LIFE 

who lifts his crown quite from his head ; last the Ethio- 
pian prince, gorgeous in green and gold, who, I am 
sorry to say, burlesques the whole solemnity. His devo- 
tion may be equally heart-felt, but it is more jerky than 
that of the others. He bows well and adequately, but 
recovers his balance with a prodigious start, altogether 
too suggestive of springs and wheels. Perhaps there is 
a touch of the pathetic in this grotesque fatality of the 
black king, whose suffering race has always held man- 
kind between laughter and tears, and has seldom done 
a fine thing without leaving somewhere the neutralizing 
absurdity ; but if there is, the sentimental may find it, 
not I. When the procession has disappeared, we wait 
till the other giant has struck the hour, and then we dis- 
perse. 

XII 

If it is six o'clock, and the sea has begun to breathe 
cool across the Basin of St. Mark, we find our account 
in strolling upon the long Riva degli Schiavoni towards 
the Public Gardens. One would suppose, at first thought, 
that here, on this magnificent quay, with its glorious 
lookout over the lagoons, the patricians would have 
built their finest palaces ; whereas there is hardly any- 
thing but architectural shabbiness from the Ponte della 
Paglia at one end, to the Ponte Santa Marina at the 
other. But there need be nothing surprising in the fact, 
after all. The feudal wealth and nobility of other cities 
kept the base at a respectful distance by means of lofty 
stone walls, and so shut in their palaces and gardens. 
Here equal seclusion could only be achieved by building 



mmf^>-K 




;^-:bL' 



M 



\^.. 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 33 

flush upon the water, and therefore all the finest palaces 
rise sheer from the canals ; and cafes, shops, barracks, 
and puppet-shows occupy the Riva degli Schiavoni. 
Nevertheless, it is the favorite promenade of the Vene- 
tians for the winter sunshine, and at such times in the 
summer as when the sun's rage is tempered. There is 
always variety in the throng on the Riva, but the fash- 
ionable part of it is the least interesting : here and there 
a magnificent Greek flashes through the crowd, in daz- 
zling white petticoats and gold-embroidered leggings 
and jacket ; now and then a tall Dalmatian or a solemn 
Turk ; even the fishermen and the peasants, and the 
lower orders of the people, are picturesque ; but polite 
Venice is hopelessly given to the pride of the eyes, and 
commits all the excesses of the French modes. The Vene- 
tian dandy, when dressed to his own satisfaction, is the 
worst dressed man in the world. His hat curls outra- 
geously in brim and sides ; his coat-sleeves are extremely 
full, and the garment pinches him at the waist ; his pant- 
aloons flow forth from the hips, and contract narrowly 
at the boot, which is square-toed and made too long. 
The whole effect is something not to be seen elsewhere, 
and is well calculated to move the beholder to despera- 
tion.' The Venetian fine lady, also, is prone to be su- 
perfine. Her dress is as full of color as a Paolo Veron- 
ese ; in these narrow streets, where it is hard to expand 
an umbrella, she exaggerates hoops to the utmost ; and 
she fatally hides her ankles in pantalets. 

' I do not know whether these exaggerations of the fashions of 1862 
have been succeeded by equal travesties of the present modes. 



34 VENETIAN LIFE 

In the wide thoroughfare leading from the last bridge 
of the Riva to the gate of the gardens there is always 
a clapping of wooden shoes on the stones, a braying of 
hand-organs, a shrieking of people who sell fish and 
fruit, at once insufferable and indescribable. The street 
is a rio terrh^ — a filled-up canal, — and, as always 
happens with rii terrain is abandoned to the poorest 
classes, who manifest themselves, as the poorest classes 
are apt to do always, in groups of frowzy women, small 
girls carrying large babies, beggars, of course, and 
soldiers. I spoke of fruit-sellers ; but in this quarter the 
traffic in pumpkin-seeds is the most popular, — the 
people finding these an inexpensive and pleasant ex- 
cess, when taken with a glass of water flavored with 
anise. 

The Gardens were made by Napoleon, who demol- 
ished to that end some monasteries once cumbering 
the ground. They are pleasant enough, and are not 
gardens at all, but a park of formally-planted trees, — 
sycamores, chiefly. I do not remember to have seen 
here any Venetians of the better class, except on the 
Mondays-of-the-Garden, in September. Usually the pro- 
menaders are fishermen, Austrian corporals, loutish 
youth of low degree, and women too old and too poor 
to have anything to do. Strangers go there, and the 
German visitors even drink the exceptionable beer 
which is sold in. the wooden cottage on the little hillock 
at the end of the Gardens. There is also a stable, where 
are the only horses in Venice. They are let at a florin 
an hour, and I do not know why the riders are always 



VENETIAN HOLIDAYS 35 

persons of the Hebrew faith. In a word, nothing can be 
drearier than the company in the Gardens, and nothing 
loveUer than the view they command, from the sunset 
on the dome of the church of the Salute, all round the 
broad sweep of lagoon, to the tower at the port of San 
Nicolo, where you catch a glimpse of the Adriatic. 

The company is commonly stupid, but one evening, 
as we strolled idly through the walks, we came upon 
an interesting group — twenty or thirty sailors, soldiers, 
youth of the people, gray-haired fishermen, and conta- 
dini — sitting and lying on the grass, and listening with 
rapt attention to an old man reclining against a tree. I 
never saw a manner of sweeter or easier dignity than 
the speaker's. Nature is so lavish of her grace to these 
people that grow near her heart, the sun I Infinite study 
could not have taught one northern-born the charm of 
oratory as this old man displayed it. I listened, and 
heard that he was speaking Tuscan. Do you guess 
with what he was enchanting his simple auditors? 
Nothing less than " Orlando Furioso." They listened 
with the hungriest delight, and when Ariosto's inter- 
preter raised his finger and said, " Disse Timperatore," 
or, ** Orlando disse, Carlomano mio," they hardly 
breathed. 

On the Lunedl dei Giardini, already mentioned, all 
orders of the people flock thither, and promenade, and 
banquet on the grass. The trees get back the voices of 
their dryads, and the children fill the aisles with glancing 
movement and graceful sport. Of course, the hand-organ 
seeks here its proper element, the populace, but here 



36 VENETIAN LIFE 

it brays to a peculiarly beautiful purpose. For no sooner 
does it sound than the young girls of the people wreathe 
themselves into dances, and improvise the poetry of mo- 
tion. Over the grass they whirl, and up and down the 
broad avenues, and no one of all the gentle and peace- 
able crowd molests or makes them afraid. 



XVIII. CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS 

CHRISTMAS WEATHER AND SENTIMENT — CURIOUS 
CHRISTMAS GIFTS — CHRISTMAS CROWDS IN THE 
STREET AND AT THE MIDNIGHT MASS OF SAN MOIS^ 
— CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR'S DAYS. 

IT often happens, even after the cold has announced 
itself in Venice, that the hesitating winter delays in 
the Tyrol, and a mellow Indian-summer weather 
has possession of the first weeks of December. There 
was nothing in the December weather of 1863 to remind 
us northerners that Christmas was coming. The skies 
were as blue as those of June, the sun was warm, and 
the air was bland, with only now and then a trenchant 
breath from the Alps, coming like a delicate sarcasm 
from loveliness unwilling to be thought insipidly ami- 
able. But if there was no warning in the weather, there 
were other signs of Christmas-time not to be mis- 
taken : a certain foolish leaping of the heart in one's 
own breast, as if the dead raptures of childhood were 
stirred in their graves by the return of the happy sea- 
son ; and in Venice, in weary, forlorn Venice, there 
was the half-unconscious tumult, the expectant bustle 
which cities feel at the approach of holidays. The little 
shops put on their gayest airs ; there was a great clap- 
ping and hammering on the stalls and booths which 
were building in the campos ; the street-cries were more 



38 VENETIAN LIFE 

shrill and resonant, and the air was shaken with the 
continual clangor of the church bells. 



All this note of preparation is rather bewildering to 
strangers, and is apt to disorder the best-disciplined in- 
tentions of seeing Christmas as the Venetians keep it. 
The public observance of the holiday in the churches 
and on the streets is evident and accessible to the most 
transient sojourner; but it is curious proof of the diffi- 
culty of knowledge concerning the indoor life and usages 
of the Italians that I had already spent two Christmases 
in Venice without learning anything of their home cele- 
bration of the day. Perhaps a degree of like difficulty 
attends like inquiry everywhere, for the happiness of 
Christmas contracts the family circle more exclusively 
than ever around the home hearth, or the domestic 
scaldino, as the case may be. But, at any rate, I was 
quite ready to say that the observance of Christmas in 
Venice was altogether public, when I thought it a meas- 
ure of far-sighted prudence to consult my barber. 

In all Latin countries the barber is a source of inform- 
ation, which, skillfully tapped, pours forth in a stream 
of endless gossip and local intelligence. Every man 
talks with his barber ; and perhaps a lingering dignity 
clings to this artist from his former profession of sur- 
geon : it is certain the barber here prattles on with a 
freedom and importance perfectly admitted and re- 
spected by the interlocutory count under his razor. 
Those who care to know how things passed in an Italian 



CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS 39 

barber shop three hundred years ago, may read it in 
" Romola ; " those who are willing to see Nello alive and 
carrying on his art in, Venice at this day must go to be 
shaved at his shop in the Frezzaria. Here there is a 
continual exchange of gossip, and I have often listened 
with profit to the sage and piquant remarks of the head 
barber and chief ciarlone on the different events of hu- 
man life brought to his notice. His shop is well known 
as a centre of scandal, and I have heard a fair Venetian 
declare that she had cut from her list all acquaintance 
who go there, as persons likely to become infected with 
the worst habits of gossip. 

To this Nello, however, I used to go only when in the 
most brilliant humor for listening, and my authority on 
Christmas observances is another and humbler barber, 
but not less a babbler, than the first. By birth, I believe, 
he is a Mantuan, and he prides himself on speaking 
Italian instead of Venetian. He has a defective eye, 
which obliges him to tack before bringing his razor to 
bear, but which is all the more favorable to conversa- 
tion. On the whole, he is flattered to be asked about 
Christmas in Venice, and he first tells me that it is one 
of the chief holidays of the year : — 

"It is then, Signore, that the Venetians have the 
custom to make three sorts of peculiar presents : Mus- 
tard, Fish, and Mandorlato. You must have seen the 
mustard in the shop windows : it is a thick conserve of 
fruits, flavored with mustard ; and the mandorlato is 
a candy made of honey, and filled with almonds. Well, 
they buy fish, as many as they will, and a vase of mus- 



40 VENETIAN LIFE 

tard, and a box of mandorlato, and make presents of 
them, one family to another, the day before Christmas. 
It is not too much for a rich family to present a hun- 
dred boxes of mandorlato and as many pots of mustard. 
These are exchanged between friends in the city, and 
Venetians also send them to acquaintance in the coun- 
try, whence the gift is returned in cakes and eggs at 
Easter. On Christmas Eve people invite each other to 
great dinners, and eat and drink, and make merry ; but 
there are only fish and vegetables, for it is a meagre day, 
and meats are forbidden. This dinner lasts so long that, 
when it is over, it is almost time to go to midnight 
mass, which all must attend, or else hear three masses 
on the morrow ; and no doubt it was some delinquent 
who made our saying, — * Long as a Christmas mass.' 
On Christmas Day people dine at home, keeping the 
day with family reunions. But the day after ! Ah-heigh ! 
That is the first of Carnival, and all the theatres are 
opened, and there is no end to the amusements — or 
was not, in the old time. Now, they never begin. A 
week later comes the day of the Lord's Circumcision, 
and then the next holiday is Easter. The Nativity, the 
Circumcision, and the Resurrection — behold ! these 
are the three mysteries of the Christian faith. Of what 
religion are the Americans, Signore?" 

I think I was justified in answering that we were 
Christians. My barber was politely surprised. "But 
there are so many different religions," he said, in ex- 
cuse. 



CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS 41 

II 

On the afternoon before Christmas I walked through 
the thronged Merceria to the RiaUo Bridge, where the 
tumultuous mart which opens at Piazza San Marco cul- 
minates in a deafening uproar of bargains. At this time 
the Merceria, or street of the shops, presents the aspect 
of a fair, and is arranged with a tastefulness and a cun- 
ning ability to make the most of everything, which are 
seldom applied to the abundance of our fairs at home. 
The shops in Venice are very small, and the streets of 
lofty houses are so narrow and dark that whatever goods 
are not exposed in the shop windows are brought to the 
door to be clamored over by purchasers; so that the 
Merceria is roused by unusual effort to produce a more 
pronounced effect of traffic and noise than it always 
wears ; but now the effort had been made and the effect 
produced. The street was choked with the throngs, 
through which all sorts of peddlers battled their way 
and cried their wares. In Campo San Bartolomeo, into 
which the Merceria expands, at the foot of Rialto Bridge, 
holiday traffic had built enormous barricades of stalls, 
and intrenched itself behind booths, whence purchasers 
were assailed with challenges to buy bargains. More 
than half the campo was paved with crockery from 
Rovigo and glassware from Murano ; clothing of every 
sort, and all kinds of small household wares, were offered 
for sale ; and among the other booths, in the proportion 
of two to one, were stalls of the inevitable Christmas 
mustard and mandorlato. 



42 VENETIAN LIFE 

But I cared rather for the crowd than what the crowd 
cared for. I had been long ago obliged to throw aside 
my preconceived notions of the Italian character, though 
they were not, I believe, more absurd than the impres- 
sions of others who have never studied Italian character 
in Italy. I hardly know what of bacchantic joyousness I 
had not attributed to them on their holidays : a people 
living in a mild climate under such a lovely sky, with 
wine cheap and abundant, might not unreasonably have 
been expected to put on a show of the greatest jollity 
when enjoying themselves. Venetian crowds are always 
perfectly gentle and kindly, but they are also as a whole 
usually serious ; and this Christmas procession, moving 
up and down the Merceria, and to and fro between the 
markets of Rialto, was in the fullest sense a solemnity. 
It is true that the scene was dramatic, but the drama was 
not consciously comic. Whether these people bought or 
sold, or talked together, or walked to and fro in silence, 
they were all equally in earnest. The crowd, in spite of 
its noisy bustle and passionate uproar, did not seem to 
me a blithe or light-hearted crowd. Its sole activity was 
that of traffic, for, far more dearly than any Yankee, a 
Venetian loves a bargain, and puts his whole heart into 
upholding and beating down demands. 

Across the Bridge began the vegetable and fruit mar- 
ket, where whole Hollands of cabbage and Spains of 
onions opened on the view, with every other succulent 
and toothsome growth ; and beyond this we entered the 
glory of Rialto, the fish-market, which is now more lav- 
ishly supplied than at any other season. It was pictur- 






iliii ***Vi 



K/ 




'\,.k--fi-M'^m^, 



-VA. 



CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS 43 

esque and full of gorgeous color ; for the fish of Venice 
Seem to catch the rainbow hues of the lagoon. There is 
a certain kind of red mullet, called triglia, which is as 
rich and tender in its dyes as if it had never swam in 
water less glorious than that which crimsons under Octo- 
ber sunsets. But a fish-market, even at Rialto, with fish- 
ermen in scarlet caps and triglie in sunset splendors, is 
only a fish-market, after all : it is wet and slimy under 
foot, and the innumerable gigantic eels, writhing every- 
where, set the soul asquirm, and soon-sated curiosity 
slides willingly away. 

We had an appointment with a young Venetian lady 
to attend midnight mass at the church of San Moise, 
and thither about half past eleven we went to welcome 
in Christmas. The church of San Moise is in the last 
excess of the baroque. The richly sculptured fagade is 
divided into stories ; the fluted columns are stilted upon 
pedestals, and their lines are broken by the bands which 
encircle them like broad barrel-hoops. At every possible 
point theatrical saints and angels, only kept from falling 
to the ground by iron bars let into their backs, start 
from the niches and cling to the sculpture. The outside 
of the church is in every way detestable, and the inside is 
consistently bad. All the side altars have broken arches, 
and the high altar is built of rough blocks of marble to 
represent Mount Sinai, on which a melodramatic statue 
of Moses receives the tables of the law from God the 
Father, with frescoed seraphim in the background. For 
the same reason, I suppose, that the devout prefer a 
hideous Bambino and a Madonna in crinoline to the 



44 VENETIAN LIFE 

most graceful artistic conception of those sacred person- 
ages, San Moise is the most popular church for the mid- 
night mass in Venice, and there is no mass at all in St. 
Mark's. 

On Christmas Eve, then, San Moise was crowded, 
and the doorways were constantly thronged with peo- 
ple passing in and out. I was puzzled to see so many 
young men present, for Young Italy is not usually in 
great number at church; but a friend explained the 
anomaly: "After the guests at our Christmas Eve din- 
ners have well eaten and drunken, they go to mass in 
at least one church, and the younger offer a multiplied 
devotion by going to all. It is a good thing in some 
ways, for by this means they manage to see every pretty 
face in the city, which that night has specially prepared 
itself to be seen ; " and from this slender text my friend 
began to discourse at large about these Christmas Eve 
dinners, and chiefly how jollily the priests fared, ending 
with the devout wish, " Would God had made me nephew 
of a canonico ! " The great dinners of the priests are a 
favorite theme with Italian talkers ; but I suspect it is 
after all only a habit of speech. The priests are too nu- 
merous to feed sumptuously in most cases. 

We had a good place to see and hear, sitting in the 
middle of the main aisle, directly over the dust of John 
Law, who alighted in Venice when his great Mississippi 
Bubble burst, and died here, and now sleeps peacefully 
under a marble tablet in the ugly church of San Mois^. 
The thought of that busy, ambitious life, come to this 
unscheming repose under our feet, — so far from the 



CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS 45 

scene of its hopes, successes, and defeats, — gave its 
own touch of solemnity to the time and place, and 
helped the offended sense of propriety through the 
bursts of operatic music which interspersed the mass. 
But, on the whole, the music was good and the function 
sufficiently impressive, — what with the gloom of the 
temple everywhere starred with tapers, and the grand 
altar lighted to the mountain-top. The singing of the 
priests also was here much better than I had found it 
elsewhere in Venice. 

The equality of all classes in church is a noticeable 
thing always in Italy, but on this Christmas Eve it was 
unusually evident. The rags of the beggar brushed the 
silks of luxury, as the wearers knelt side by side on the 
marble floor; and on the night when Christ was born 
to poverty on earth, the rich seemed to feel that they 
drew nearer to Him in the neighborhood of the poor. In 
these costly temples of the eldest Christianity, the poor 
seem to enter upon their inheritance of the future, for 
it is they who frequent them most and possess them 
with the deepest sense of ownership. The withered old 
woman, who creeps into St. Mark's with her scaldino 
in her hand, takes visible possession of its magnificence 
as God's and hers, and Catholic wealth and rank would 
hardly, if challenged, dispute her claim. 

Even the longest mass comes to an end at last, and 
those of our party who could credit themselves with no 
gain of masses against the morrow received the bene- 
diction at San Mois^ with peculiar unction. We all 
issued forth, and passing through the lines of young 



46 VENETIAN LIFE 

men who draw themselves up on either side of the 
doors of public places in Venice, to look at the young 
ladies as they come out, we entered the Place of St. 
Mark. The Piazza was more gloriously beautiful than 
ever I saw it before, and the church had a saintly love- 
liness. The moon was full, and snowed down the mel- 
lowest light on the gray domes, which in their soft, 
elusive outlines, and strange effect of far withdrawal, 
rhymed like faint-heard refrains to the bright and vivid 
arches of the fagade. If the bronze horses had been 
minded to quit their station before the great window 
over the central arch, they might have paced around the 
night's whole half- world, and found no fairer resting- 
place. 

Ill 

As for Christmas Day in Venice, it amounted to very 
little; everything was closed, and whatever merry- 
making went on was within doors. Although the shops 
and the places of amusement were opened the day fol- 
lowing, the city entered very sparingly on the pleasures 
of Carnival, and Christmas week passed off in every-day 
fashion. It will be remembered that on St. Stephen's Day 
— the first of the Carnival — one of the five annual ban- 
quets took place at the Ducal Palace in the time of the 
Republic. A certain number of patricians received invi- 
tations to the dinner, and those for whom there was no 
room were presented with fish and poultry by the Doge. 
The populace were admitted to look on during the first 
course, and then, having sated their appetites with this 
savory observance, were invited to withdraw. The patri- 



CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS 47 

otic Giustina Renier-Michiel of course makes much of 
the courtesy thus extended to the people by the State, 
but I cannot help thinking it must have been hard to 
bear. The banquet, however, has passed away with the 
Republic which gave it, and the only savor of dinner 
which Venetian poverty now inhales on St. Stephen's 
Day is that which arises from its own proper pot of 
broth. 

New Year's is the carnival of the beggars in Venice. 
Their business is carried on briskly throughout the 
year, but on this day it is pursued with an unusual de- 
gree of perseverance, and an enterprise worthy of dis- 
interested admiration. At every corner, on every bridge, 
under every doorway, hideous shapes of poverty, mu- 
tilation, and deformity stand waiting, and thrust out 
palms, plates, and pans, and advance good wishes and 
blessings to those who pass. It is an immemorial cus- 
tom, and it is one in which all but the quite comfortable 
classes participate. The facchini in every square take 
up their collections ; the gondoliers have their plates 
prepared for contribution at every ferry ; at every cafe 
and restaurant begging-boxes appeal to charity. Who- 
ever has lifted hand in your service in any way during 
the past year expects a reward on New Year's for the 
complaisance, and in some cases the shopkeepers send 
to wish you a bel capo (V anno, with the same practical 
end in view. On New Year's Eve and morning bands 
of facchini and gondoliers go about howling vivas under 
charitable windows till they open and drop alms. The 
Piazza is invaded by the legions of beggary, and held 



48 VENETIAN LIFE 

in overpowering numbers against all comers ; and to 
traverse it is like a progress through a lazar-house. 

Beyond encouraging so gross an abuse as this, I do 
not know that Venice celebrates New Year's in a pecul- 
iar manner. It is s^/estay and there are masses, of course. 
Presents are exchanged, which consist chiefly of books 
— printed for the season ; and brilliant outside and 
dull within, like all annuals. 



XIX. LOVE-MAKING AND MARRYING; BAP- 
TISMS AND BURIALS 

PRACTICAL CHARACTER OF VENETIAN MARRIAGES IN 
ALL TIMES — FRIENDLY INTERVENTIONS AMONG THE 
COMMON PEOPLE — BETROTHALS AND ESPOUSALS 
AMONG THE PATRICIANS IN THE PAST — ACTUAL 
COURTSHIPS — BAPTISMAL CUSTOMS — FUNERALS, AND 
A BURIAL AT SAN MICHELE, THE ISLAND CEMETERY. 

THE Venetians have had a practical and strictly 
business-like way of arranging marriages from 
the earliest times. Shrewd provision has always 
been made for the dower and for the good of the State ; 
private and public interest being consulted, the small 
matters of affections have been left to the chances of 
association ; and it does not seem that Venetian society 
has ever dealt severely with husbands or wives whom 
incompatibilities forced to seek consolation outside of 
matrimony. Herodotus relates that the Illyrian Veneti 
sold their daughters at auction to the highest bidder ; 
and the fair being thus comfortably placed in life, the 
hard-favored were given to whosoever would take them, 
with such dower as might be considered a reason- 
able compensation. The auction was discontinued in 
Christian times, but marriage contracts still partook of 
the form of a public and half-mercantile transaction. At 
a comparatively late period Venetian fathers went with 
their daughters to a great annual matrimonial fair at 



50 VENETIAN LIFE 

San Pietro di Castello Olivolo, and the youth of the 
lagoons repaired thither to choose wives from the num- 
ber of the maidens. These were all dressed in white, 
with hair loose about the neck, and each bore her dower 
in a little box, slung over her shoulder by a ribbon. It 
is to be supposed that there was commonly a previous 
understanding between each damsel and some youth 
in the crowd : as soon as all had paired off, the bishop 
gave them a sermon and his benediction, and the 
young men gathered up their brides and boxes, and 
went away wedded. It was on one of these occasions, 
in the year 944, that the Triestine pirates stole the 
Brides of Venice with their dowers, and gave occasion 
to the Festa delle Marie, already described, and to 
Rogers's poem, which everybody pretends to have read. 

I 

This going to San Pietro's, selecting a wife and marry- 
ing her on the spot, out of hand, could only have been 
the contrivance of a straightforward, practical race. 
Among the common people betrothals were managed 
with even greater ease and dispatch, till a very late day 
in history ; and in the record of a certain trial which 
took place in 1443 there is an account of one of these 
brief and unceremonious courtships. Donna Catarussa, 
who gives evidence, and whom I take to have been an 
idle gossip, was one day sitting at her door, when Piero 
di Trento passed, selling brooms, and said to her, "Ma- 
donna, find me some nice girl.'* To which Donna Cata- 
russa replied, " Ugly fool ! do you take me for a go- 



LOVE-MAKING AND MARRYING 51 

between?" "No," said Piero, "not that; I mean a girl 
to be my wife." Donna Catarussa thought at once of a 
suitable match, and said, "In faith of God, I know one 
for you. Come again to-morrow." So they both met 
next day, and the woman chosen by Donna Catarussa 
being asked, " Wouldst thou like to have Piero for thy 
husband, as God commands and Holy Church?" she 
answered, " Yes." Peter being asked the like question, 
answered, " Why, yes, certainly." So they went off and 
had the wedding feast. A number of these betrothals 
take place in the last scene of Goldoni's " Baruffe Chioz- 
zotte," where the belligerent women and their lovers 
take hands in the public streets, and, saluting each other 
as man and wife, are affianced, and get married as 
quickly as possible : — 

" Checa (to Tofolo). Take my hand. 

''Tofolo, Wife! 

" Checa, Husband 1 

''Tofolo. Hurra!" 

, II 

The betrothals of the Venetian nobles were celebrated 
with as much pomp and ceremony as could possibly 
distinguish them from those of the people, and there 
was much more polite indifference to the inclinations 
of the parties immediately concerned. The contract was 
often concluded before the betrothed had seen each 
other, by means of a third person, when the amount of 
the dower was fixed. The bridegroom elect, having ver- 
bally agreed with the parents of the bride, repaired at 



52 VENETIAN LIFE 

an early day to the courtyard of the Ducal Palace, where 
the match was published, and where he shook hands 
with his kinsmen and friends. On the day fixed for sign- 
ing the contract the bride's father invited to his house 
the bridegroom and all his friends, and hither came the 
high officers of state to compliment the future husband. 
He, with the father of his betrothed, met the guests at 
the door of the palace, and conducted them to the grand 
saloon, which no woman was allowed at this time to 
enter. When the company was seated, the bride, clad 
in white, was led from her rooms and presented. She 
wore a crown of pearls and brilliants on her head, and 
her hair, mixed with long threads of gold, fell loose 
about her shoulders, as you may see it in Carpaccio's 
pictures of the Espousals of St. Ursula. Her earrings 
were pendants of three pearls set in gold ; her neck and 
throat were bare but for a collar of lace and gems, from 
which slid a fine jeweled chain into her bosom. She wore 
a stomacher of cloth of gold, to which were attached her 
sleeves, open from the elbow to the hand. The formal 
words of espousal being pronounced, the bride paced 
slowly round the hall to the music of fifes and trumpets, 
and made a gentle inclination to each of the guests ; 
and then returned to her chamber, from which she issued 
again on the arrival of any tardy friend, and repeated 
the ceremony. After all this, she descended to the court- 
yard, where she was received by the gentlewomen, her 
friends, and placed on a raised seat (which was covered 
with rich stuffs) in an open gondola, and thus, followed 
by a fleet of attendant gondolas, went to visit all the 



LOVE-MAKING AND MARRYING 53 

convents in which there were kinspeople of herself or 
her betrothed. The excessive pubHcity of these cere- 
monies was supposed to strengthen the validity of the 
marriage contract. At an early day after the espousals 
the betrothed, preceded by musicians and followed by 
relatives and friends, went at dawn to be married in the 
church, — the bridegroom wearing a toga, and the bride 
a dress of white silk or crimson velvet, with jewels in 
her hair, and pearls embroidered on her robes. Visits of 
congratulation followed, and on the same day a public 
feast was given in honor of the wedding, to which at 
least three hundred persons were always invited, and at 
which the number, quality, and cost of the dishes were 
carefully regulated by the Republic's laws. On this oc- 
casion, one or more persons were chosen as governors 
of the feast, and after the tables were removed, a mock- 
heroic character appeared, and recounted with burlesque 
exaggeration the deeds of the ancestors of the bride and 
groom. The next morning ristorativi of sweetmeats and 
confectionery were presented to the happy couple, by 
whom the presents were returned in kind. 

A splendor so exceptional, even in the most splendid 
age of the most splendid city, as that which marked the 
nuptial feasts of the unhappy Jacopo Foscari, should 
not be left unnoticed in this place. He espoused Lucre- 
zia, daughter of Lionardo Contarini, a noble as rich and 
magnificent as Jacopo's own father, the Doge ; and, on 
the 29th of January, 1441, the noble Eustachio Balbi 
being chosen lord of the feasts, the bridegroom, the 
bride's brother, and eighteen other patrician youths, 



54 VENETIAN LIFE 

assembled in the Palazzo Balbi, whence they went on 
horseback to conduct Lucrezia to the Ducal Palace. 
They were all sumptuously dressed in crimson velvet 
and silver brocade of Alexandria, and rode chargers 
superbly caparisoned. Other noble friends attended 
them ; musicians went before ; a troop of soldiers brought 
up the rear. They thus proceeded to the courtyard of 
the Ducal Palace, and then, returning, traversed the 
Piazza, and threading the devious little streets to the 
Campo San Samuele, there crossed the Grand Canal 
upon a bridge of boats, to San Barnaba opposite, where 
the Contarini lived. On their arrival at this place the 
bride, supported by two Procuratori di San Marco, and 
attended by sixty ladies, descended to the church and 
heard mass, after which an oration was delivered in 
Campo San Barnaba before the Doge, the ambassadors, 
and a multitude of nobles and people, in praise of the 
spouses and their families. The bride then returned to 
her father's house, and jousts took place in the campos 
of Santa Maria Formosa and San Polo (the largest in • 
the city), and in the Piazza San Marco. The Doge gave 
a great banquet, and at its close one hundred and fifty 
ladies proceeded to the bride's palace in the Bucintoro, 
where one hundred other ladies joined them, together 
with Lucrezia, who, seated between Francesco Sforza 
(then General-in-chief of the Republic's armies) and the 
Florentine ambassador, was conducted, amid the shouts 
of the people and the sound of trumpets, to the Ducal 
Palace. The Doge received her at the riva of the Piaz- 
zetta, and, with Sforza and Balbi, led her to the foot of 



LOVE-MAKING AND MARRYING 55 

the palace stairs, where the Dogaressa, with sixty ladies, 
welcomed her. A state supper ended this day's rejoic- 
ings, and on the following day a tournament took place 
in the Piazza, for a prize of cloth of gold, which was 
offered by Sforza. Forty knights contested the prize, and 
supped afterward with the Doge. On the next day there 
were processions of boats, with music, on the Grand Ca- 
nal ; on the fourth and last day there were other jousts 
for prizes offered by the jewelers and Florentine mer- 
chants ; and every night there were dancing and feast- 
ing in the Ducal Palace. The Doge was himself the 
giver of the last tournament, and with this the festivities 
came to an end. 

I have read an account by an old-fashioned English 
traveler of a Venetian marriage which he saw, sixty or 
seventy years ago, at the church of San Giorgio Mag- 
giore. " After a crowd of nobles," he says, " in their 
usual black robes, had been some time in attendance, 
the gondolas appearing exhibited a fine show, though 
all of them were painted of a sable hue, in consequence 
of a sumptuary law, which is very necessary in this place, 
to prevent an expense which many who could not bear 
it would incur ; nevertheless the barcarioli, or boatmen, 
were dressed in handsome liveries ; the gondolas fol- 
lowed one another in a line, each carrying two ladies, 
who were likewise dressed in black. As they landed they 
arranged themselves in order, forming a line from the 
gate to the great altar. At length the bride, arrayed in 
white as the symbol of innocence, led by the bridesman, 
ascended the stairs of the landing-place. There she re- 



56 VENETIAN LIFE 

ceived the compliments of the bridegroom, in his black 
toga, who walked at her right hand to the altar, where 
they and all the company kneeled. I was often afraid the 
poor young creature would have sunk upon the ground 
before she arrived, for she trembled with great agitation, 
while she made her low curtsies from side to side: 
however, the ceremony was no sooner performed than 
she seemed to recover her spirits, and looked matrimony 
in the face with a determined smile. Indeed, in all 
appearance she had nothing to fear from her husband, 
whose age and aspect were not at all formidable ; ac- 
cordingly she tripped back to the gondola with great 
activity and resolution, and the procession ended as it 
began. Though there was something attractive in this 
aquatic parade, the black hue of the boats and the com- 
pany presented to a stranger, like me, the idea of a fu- 
neral rather than a wedding. My expectation was raised 
too high by the previous description of the Italians, who* 
are much given to hyperbole, who gave me to under- 
stand that this procession would far exceed anything I 
had ever seen. When I reflect upon this rhodomon- 
tade," Mr. Drummond disdainfully adds, " I cannot help 
comparing, in my memory, the paltry procession of 
the Venetian marriage with a very august occurrence 
of which I was eye-witness in Sweden," and which, 
being the reception of their Swedish Majesties by the 
British fleet, I am sure the reader will not ask me to 
quote. 



LOVE-MAKING AND MARRYING 57 

III 

With change of government, changes of civilization 
following the revolutions, and the decay of wealth among 
the Venetian nobles, their splendid customs have passed 
away, and the habit of making wedding presents of 
sweetmeats and confectionery is perhaps the only relic 
which has descended from the picturesque past to the 
present time. These gifts are still exchanged not only by 
nobles, but by all commoners according to their means, 
and are sometimes a source of very profuse outlay. It is 
the habit to send the candies in the fanciful and costly 
paper caskets which the confectioners sell, and the sum 
of a thousand florins scarcely suffices to pass the courtesy 
round a moderately large circle of friends. 

With the nobility and with the richest commoners 
marriage is still greatly a matter of contract, and is ar- 
ranged without much reference to the principals, though 
it is now scarcely probable in any case that they have 
not seen each other. But with all other classes, except 
the poorest, who cannot and do not seclude the youth 
of either sex from one another, and with whom, conse- 
quently, romantic contrivance and subterfuge would be 
superfluous, love is made to-day in Venice as in the capa 
y espada comedies of the Spaniards, and the business 
is carried on with all the cumbrous machinery of confi- 
dants, billets-doux, and stolen interviews. 

Let us take our nominal friends, Marco and Todaro, 
and attend them in their solemn promenade under the 
arcades of the Procuratie, or upon the Molo, whither they 



58 VENETIAN LIFE 

go every evening to taste the air and to look at the ladies, 
while the Austrians and the other foreigners listen to the 
military music in the Piazza. They are both young, our 
friends ; they have both glossy silk hats ; they have both 
light canes and an innocent swagger. Inconceivably 
mild are these youth, and in their talk indescribably 
small and commonplace. 

They look at the ladies, and suddenly Todaro feels 
the consuming ardors of love. 

Todaro (to Marco). Here, dear I Behold this beautiful 
blonde here ! Beautiful as an angel I But what loveli- 
ness ! 

Marco. But where ? 

Todaro. It is enough. Let us go. I follow her. 

Such is the force of the passion in southern hearts. 
They follow that beautiful blonde, who, marching de- 
murely in front of the gray-mustached papa and the fat 
mamma, after the fashion in Venice, is electrically con- 
scious of pursuit. They follow her during the whole even- 
ing, and, at a distance, softly follow her home, where the 
burning Todaro photographs the number of the house 
upon the sensitized tablets of his soul. 

This is the first great step in love : he has seen his 
adored one, and he knows that he loves her with an in- 
extinguishable ardor. The next advance is to be decided 
between himself and the faithful Marco, and is to be de- 
bated over many cups of black coffee, not to name glasses 
of sugar-and-water and the like exciting beverages. 
The friends may now find out the cafe which the Biondina 
frequents with her parents, and to which Todaro may go 






:0:y- 




LOVE-MAKING AND MARRYING 59 

every evening and feast his eyes upon her loveliness, 
never making his regard known by any word, till some 
night, when he has followed her home, he steals speech 
with her as he stands in the street under her balcony, — 
and looks sufficiently sheepish as people detect him on 
their late return from the theatre. Or, if the friends do 
not take this course in their courtship (for they are both 
engaged in the wooing), they decide that Todaro, after 
walking back and forth a sufficient number of times in 
the street where the Biondina lives, shall write her a 
tender letter, to demand if she be disposed to return his 
love. This billet must always be conveyed to her by 
her serving-maid, who must be bribed by Marco for the 
purpose. At every juncture Marco must be consulted, 
and acquainted with every step of progress ; and no 
doubt the Biondina has some lively Moretta for her 
friend, to whom she confides her part of the love-aflair 
in all its intricacy. 

It may likewise happen that Todaro shall go to see 
the Biondina in church, whither, but for her presence, he 
would hardly go, and that there, though he may not 
have speech with her, he shall still fan the flame of her 
curiosity and pity by persistent sighs. If the Biondina is 
not pleased with his looks, his devotion must assume the 
character of an intolerable bore to her ; and to see him 
everywhere at her heels, to behold him leaning against 
the pillar near which she kneels at church, the head of 
his stick in his mouth, and his attitude carefully taken 
with a view to captivation, to be always in deadly fear 
lest she shall meet him in promenade, or, turning round 



60 VENETIAN LIFE 

at the cafe encounter his pleading gaze — all this must 
drive the Biondina to a state bordering upon blasphemy. 
Ma^ come si fa ? Ci vuol pazienza / This is the sole 
course open to ingenuous youth in Venice, where con- 
fessed and unashamed acquaintance between young 
people is extremely difficult ; and so this blind pursuit 
must go on, till the Biondina' s inclinations are at last 
laboriously ascertained. 

Suppose the Biondina consents to be loved? Then 
Todaro has just and proper inquiries to make concern- 
ing her dower ; and if her fortune is as pleasing as her- 
self, he has only to demand her in marriage of her father, 
and after that to make her acquaintance. 

One day a Venetian friend of mine, who spoke a 
little English, came to me with a joyous air and said : 

" I am in lofe." 

After repeated confidences of this kind from the same 
person, I listened with tempered effusion. 

" It is a blonde again ? '* 

" Yes, you have right; blonde again." 

"And pretty?" 

"Oh, but beautiful I I lofe her — come si dice ? — im- 
mensamenteP 

" And when did you see her ? Where did you make 
her acquaintance ? " 

" I have not made the acquaintance. I see her pass 
with his fazer every night on Rialto Bridge. We did 
not spoke yet — only with the eyes. The lady is not of 
Venice. She has four thousand florins. It is not much, 
no. But!" 



LOVE-MAKING AND MARRYING 6i 

Is not this love at first sight almost idyllic ? Is it not 
also a sublime prudence to know the lady's fortune 
better than herself, before herself? After that may come 
the marriage, and the sonnet written by the next of 
friendship, and printed to hang up in all the shop win- 
dows, celebrating the auspicious event. If he be rich, 
or can write nobile after his Christian name, perhaps 
some abbate, elegantly addicted to verses and alive to 
grateful consequences, may publish a poem, printed by 
the matchless printers at Rovigo, and send it to all the 
bridegroom's friends. It is not the only event which the 
facile Venetian Muse shall sing for him. If his child is 
brought happily through the measles by Doctor Cava- 
sangue, the Nine shall celebrate the fact. If he takes 
any public honor or scholastic degree, it is equal occa- 
sion for verses ; and when he dies the mortuary rhyme 
shall follow him. Indeed, almost every occurrence — a 
boy's success at school, an advocate's triumphal pas- 
sage of the perils of examination at Padua, a priest's 
first mass, a nun's novitiate, a birth, an amputation — is 
the subject of tuneful effusion, and no less the occasion 
of a visit from the facchini of the neighboring campo, 
who assemble with a blare of trumpets and tumult of 
voices around the victim's door, and proclaim his skill 
or good fortune, and break into vivas that never end 
till he bribes their enthusiasm into silence. The naive, 
commonplace feeling in matrimonial transactions, in 
spite of the gloss which the operatic methods of court- 
ship threw about them, was a source of endless amuse- 
ment, as it stole out in different ways. " You know 



62 VENETIAN LIFE 

my friend Marco ? " asked an acquaintance one day. 
" Well, we are looking out a wife for him. He does n't 
want to marry, but his father insists ; and he has 
begged us to find somebody. There are three of us on 
the lookout. But he hates women, and is very hard to 
suit. Ben I Ci vuol pazienza !^' 

It rarely happens now that the religious part of the 
marriage ceremony is not performed in church, though 
it may be performed at the house of the bride. In this 
case, it usually takes place in the evening, and the 
spouses attend five o'clock mass next morning. But if 
the marriage takes place at church, it must be between 
five and eleven in the morning, and the blessing is com- 
monly pronounced about six o'clock. Civil marriage is 
still unknown among the Venetians. It is entirely the 
affair of the Church, in which the bans are published 
beforehand, and which exacts from the candidates a 
preliminary visit to their parish priest, for examination 
in their catechism, and for instruction in religion when 
they are defective in knowledge of the kind. There is 
no longer any civil publication of the betrothals, and 
the hand-shaking in the court of the Ducal Palace has 
long been disused. That ceremony must have been a 
great affliction, and in the Republican times at Venice 
a bridegroom must have fared nearly as hard as a 
President elect in our times at home. 

IV 

There was a curious display on occasion of births 
among the nobility in former times. The room of the 



BAPTISMS AND BURIALS 63 

young mother was decorated with a profusion of paint- 
ings, sculpture, and jewelry ; and, while yet in bed, she 
received the congratulations of her friends, and regaled 
them with sweetmeats served in vases of gold and silver. 
The child of noble parents had always at least two 
godfathers, and sometimes as many as a hundred and 
fifty; but in order that the relationship of godfather 
(being the same, according to the canonical law, as a tie 
of consanguinity) should not prevent desirable matri- 
mony between nobles, no patrician was allowed to be 
godfather to another's child. Consequently the compare 
was usually a dependent of the noble parent, and was 
not expected to make any present to the godchild, 
whose father, on the day following the baptism, sent 
him a piece of marchpane, in acknowledgment of their 
relationship. No women were present at the baptism 
except those who had charge of the babe. After the fall 
of the Republic, the French custom of baptism in the 
parents' house was introduced, as well as the custom, 
on the godfather's part, of giving a present, — usually of 
sugar-plums and silver toys. But I believe most bap- 
tisms still take place in church, if I may judge from the 
numbers of tight little glass cases I have noticed, con- 
taining little eight-day-old Venetians, closely swathed 
in mummy-like bandages, and borne to and from the 
churches by mysterious old women. The ceremony of 
baptism itself does not apparently differ from that in 
other Catholic countries, and is performed, like all reli- 
gious services in Italy, without a touch of religious feel- 
ing or solemnity of any kind. 



64 VENETIAN LIFE 

V 

For many centuries funeral services in Venice have 
been conducted by the Scuole del Sacramento, insti- 
tuted for that purpose. To one of these societies the 
friends of the defunct pay a certain sum, and the asso- 
ciation engages to inter the dead, and bear all the ex- 
penses of the ceremony, the dignity of which is regulated 
by the priest of the parish in which the deceased lived. 
The rite is now most generally undertaken by the Scuola 
di San Rocco. The funeral train is of ten or twenty fac- 
chini, wearing tunics of white, with caps and capes of 
red, and bearing the society's long, gilded candlesticks 
of wood, with lighted tapers. Priests follow them chant- 
ing prayers, and then comes the bier, with a gilt crown 
lying on the coffin, if the dead be a babe, to indicate 
the triumph of innocence. Formerly, hired mourners 
attended, and a candle, weighing a pound, was given to 
any one who chose to carry it in the procession. 

Anciently there was great show of mourning in Venice 
for the dead, when, according to Mutinelli, the friends 
and kinsmen of the deceased, having seen his body de- 
posited in the church, " fell to weeping and howling, tore 
their hair and rent their clothes, and withdrew forever 
from that church, thenceforth become for them a place 
of abomination." Decenter customs prevailed in after 
times, and there was a pathetic dignity in the ceremony 
of condolence among patricians : the mourners, on the 
day following the interment, repaired to the porticoes 
of Rialto and the court of the Ducal Palace, and their 



BAPTISMS AND BURIALS 65 

friends came, one after another, and expressed their 
sympathy by a mute pressure of the hand. 

Death, however, is hushed up as much as possible in 
modern Venice. The corpse is hurried from the house 
of mourning to the parish church, where the friends, 
after the funeral service, take leave of it. Then it is 
placed in a boat and carried to the burial-ground, where 
it is quickly interred. I was fortunate, therefore, in wit- 
nessing a funeral, at which I one day casually assisted, 
at San Michele. There was a church on this island as 
early as the tenth century, and in the thirteenth century 
it fell into the possession of the Comandulensen Friars. 
They built a monastery on it, which became famous as 
a seat of learning, and gave much erudite scholarship 
to the world. In later times Pope Gregory XVI carried 
his profound learning from San Michele to the Vatican. 
The present church is in the baroque style, but not very 
offensively so, and has some indifferent paintings. The 
arcades and the courts around which it is built contain 
funeral monuments as ugly and tasteless as anything of 
the kind I ever saw at home ; but the dead, for the most 
part, lie in graves marked merely by little iron crosses 
in the narrow and roofless space walled in from the 
lagoon, which laps sluggishly at the foot of the masonry 
with the impulses of the tide. The old monastery was 
abolished in 18 10, and there is now a convent of Re- 
formed Benedictines on the island, who perform the last 
service for the dead. 

On the day of which I speak, I was taking a friend 
to see the objects of interest at San Michele, which I had 



66 VENETIAN LIFE 

seen before, and the funeral procession touched at the 
riva of the church just as we arrived. The procession 
was of one gondola only, and the pall-bearers were four 
pleasant ruffians in scarlet robes of cotton, hooded, and 
girdled at the waist. They were accompanied by a priest 
of a broad and jolly countenance, two grinning boys, 
and . finally the corpse itself, severely cased in a black 
box, but wearing an outer garment of red velvet, bor- 
dered and tasseled gayly. The pleasant ruffians (who all 
wore smoking caps with some other name) placed this 
holiday corpse upon a bier, and after a lively dispute 
with our gondolier, in the usual terms of Venetian chaff, 
lifted the bier on shore and set it down. The priest fol- 
lowed with the two boys, whom he rebuked for levity, 
simultaneously tripping over the Latin of a prayer, with 
his eyes fixed on our harmless little party as if we were 
a funeral, and the dead in the black box an indifferent 
spectator. Then he popped down upon his knees, and 
made us a lively little supplication, while a blind beg- 
gar scuffled for a lost soldo about his feet, and the 
gondoliers quarreled volubly. After which, he threw off 
his surplice with the air of one who should say his 
day's work was done, and preceded the coffin into the 
church. 

Our party had hardly deposited the bier upon the 
floor in the centre of the nave, when two pale young 
friars appeared, throwing off their hooded cloaks of 
coarse brown, as they passed to the sacristy, and reap- 
pearing in their rope-girdled gowns. One of them bore 
a lighted taper in his right hand and a book in his left; 



BAPTISMS AND BURIALS 67 

the other had also a taper, but a vessel of holy water 
instead of the book. 

They are very handsome young men, these monks, 
with heavy, sad eyes, and graceful, slender figures, which 
their monastic life will presently overload with gross hu- 
manity full of coarse appetites. They go and stand beside 
the bier, giving a curious touch of solemnity to a group 
composed of the four pleasant ruffians in the loaferish 
postures which they have learned as facchini waiting for 
jobs; of the two boys with inattentive grins, and of the 
priest with wandering eyes, kneeling behind them. 

A weak, thin-voiced organ pipes huskily from its damp 
loft : the monk hurries rapidly over the Latin text of the 
service, while his ** breath to heaven like vapor goes" 
on the chilly, humid air ; and the other monk makes the 
responses, giving and taking the sprinkler, which his 
chief shakes vaguely in the direction of the coffin. They 
both bow their heads, — shaven down to the temples, 
to simulate the crown of thorns. Silence. The organ is 
still ; the priest has vanished ; the tapers are blown out ; 
the pall-bearers lay hold of the bier, and raise it to their 
shoulders ; the boys slouch into procession behind them ; 
the monks glide softly and dispiritedly away. The soul 
is prepared for eternal life, and the body for the grave. 

The ruffians are expansively gay on reaching the open 
air again. They laugh, they call " Cio ! " ' continually, 
and banter each other as they trot to the grave. 

*. Literally, Thatm Italian, and meaning in Venetian, You! Heigh! To 
talk in Cib ciappa is to assume insolent familiarity or unbounded good fel- 
lowship with the person addressed. A Venetian says Cih a thousand times 



68 VENETIAN LIFE 

The boys follow them, gamboling among the little 
iron crosses, and trying if here and there one of them 
may not be overthrown. 

We two strangers follow the boys. 

But here the pall-bearers become puzzled : on the right 
is an open trench, on the left is an open trench. " Pres- 
ence of the Devil I To which grave does this dead be- 
long?'* They discuss, they dispute, they quarrel. 

From the side of the wall, as if he rose from the sea, 
appears the grave-digger, with his shovel on his shoul- 
der, slouching toward us. 

" Ah heigh ! Cid, the grave-digger ? Where does this 
dead belong?" 

" Body of Bacchus, what potatoes ! Here, in this trench 
to the right." 

They set down the bier there, gladly. They strip away 
the coffin's gay upper garment ; they leave but the under- 
dress of black box, painted to that favor with pitch. They 
sliove it into the grave-digger's arms, where he stands 
in the trench, in the soft earth, rich with bones. He lets 
it slide swiftly to the ground — thump ! Eccofatto! 

The two boys pick up the empty bier, and dance 
merrily away with it to the riva gate, feigning a little 

in a day, and hails every one but his superior in that way. I think it is 
hardly the Italian pronoun, but possibly a contraction of Veccio (vecchio), 
Old fellow ! It is common with all classes of the people : parents use it in 
speaking to their children, and brothers and sisters call one another Cib. It 
is a salutation between friends, who cry out Cib ! as they pass in the street. 
Acquaintances, men who meet after separation, rush together with ^^Ah 
Cib I " Then they kiss on the right cheek, " Cib I " on the left, " Cib ! " on 
the lips, " Cib ! Bon dl, Cib I " 



BAPTISMS AND BURIALS 69 

play after the manner of children : ** Oh, what a beauti- 
ful dead I " 

The eldest of the pleasant ruffians is all the pleasanter 
for sciampagniny and can hardly be persuaded to go out 
at the right gate. 

We strangers stay behind a little, to consult with an- 
other spectator — Venetian, this. 

** Who is the dead man, signore ? " 

" It is a woman, poor little thing I Dead in childbed. 
The baby is in there with her." 

It has been a cheerful funeral, and yet we are not in 
great spirits as we go back to the city. 

The cry of sea-gulls on a gloomy day is not a joyous 
sound ; and the sight of those theatrical angels, with 
their shameless, unfinished backs, flying of! the top of 
the rococo fagade of the church of the Jesuits, has always 
been a spectacle to fill me with despondency and fore- 
boding. 



XX. VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 

THE TRADITIONAL HOUSE OF OTHELLO — LEGENDS 
POPULAR AMONG THE GONDOLIERS : BIASIO THE 
SAUSAGE-MAKER, THE POOR BAKER BOY, AND VENE- 
RANDA PORTA — GONDOLIERS, THEIR AMBITIONS AND 
EMPLOYMENTS, THEIR MANNERS AND CUSTOMS — IN- 
DUSTRY OF THE VENETIANS — FAVORITE SCAMPS — 
ATTRACTIVE MADMEN — SUPERFINE MANNERS OF THE 
POOR— POLITENESS OF ALL CLASSES AND LOW QUAR- 
RELS—IMPASSIONED BARGAINING — SUPERABUNDANT 
PITY. 

ON a small canal, not far from the railroad sta-. 
tion, the gondoliers show you a house, by no 
means noticeable (except for the noble statue of 
a knight, occupying a niche in one corner), as the house 
of Othello. It was once the palace of the patrician family 
Moro, a name well known in the annals of the Republic, 
and one which, it has been suggested, misled Shake- 
speare into the invention of a Moor of Venice. Whether 
this is possibly the fact, or whether there is any tradi- 
tion of a tragic incident in the history of the Moro family 
similar to that upon which the play is founded, I do not 
know ; but it is certain that the story of Othello, very 
nearly as Shakespeare tells it, is popularly known in Ven- 
ice ; and the gondoliers have fixed upon the Casa Moro 
in question as the edifice best calculated to give satisfac- 
tion to strangers in search of literary origins. The statue 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 71 

is happily darkened by time, and thus serves admirably 
to represent Othello's complexion, and to place beyond 
the shadow of a doubt the fact that this was his house. 
What can you say to the gondolier, who, in answer to 
your cavils, points to the knight, with the convincing 
argument, " There is his statue I " 

I 

One day I was taken to see this house, in company with 
some friends, and when it had been victoriously pointed 
out, as usual, we asked meekly, " Who was Othello ? " 

" Othello, signori," answered the gondolier, " was a 
general of the Republic, in the old times. He was an 
African, and black ; but nevertheless the State valued 
him, and he beat the Turks in many battles. Well, sig- 
nori, this General Othello had a very young and beau- 
tiful wife, and his wife's cousin Cassio was his major- 
domo, or, as some say, his lieutenant. But after a while 
happens along (capita) another soldier of Othello, who 
wants Cassio' s employment, and so accuses him to the 
general of corrupting his wife. Very well, signori I With- 
out thinking an instant, Othello, being made so, flew 
into a passion {si riscaldh la testd)^ and killed his wife ; 
and then when her innocence came out, he killed him- 
self and that liar ; and the State confiscated his goods, he 
being a very rich man. There has been a tragedy written 
about all this, you know." 

** But how is it called ? Who wrote it ? " 

" Oh ! in regard to that, then, I don't know. Some 
Englishman." 



72 VENETIAN LIFE 

** Shakespeare?" 

"I don't know, signori. But if you doubt what I tell 
you, go to any bookseller, and say, ' Favor me with the 
tragedy of " Othello." ' He will give it you, and there you 
will find it all written out just as I tell it." 

The gondolier confirmed the authenticity of his story 
by showing us the house of Cassio near the Rialto Bridge, 
and I have no doubt he would also have pointed out 
that of lago if we had wished it. 

II 

But, as a general thing, the lore of the gondoliers is not 
rich or very great. They area loquacious and a gossiping 
race, but they love better to have a quiet chat at the tops 
of their voices, as they loaf idly at the ferries, or to scream 
repartees across the Grand Canal, than to tell stories. In 
all history that relates to localities they are sufficiently 
versed to find the noted places for strangers, but beyond 
this they trouble themselves as little with the past as with 
the future. Three tragic legends, however, they know, 
and will tell with the most amusing effect, namely: 
Biasio, luganegher; the Innocent Baker-Boy, and Vene- 
randa Porta. 

The first of these legends is that of a sausage-maker 
who flourished in Venice some centuries ago, and who 
improved the quality of the broth which the luganegheri 
make of their scraps and sell to the gondoliers, by cut- 
ting up into it now and then a child of some neighbor. 
He was finally detected by a gondolier who discovered 
a little finger in his broth, and being brought to justice, 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 73 

was dragged through the city at the heels of a wild horse. 
This uncomfortable character appears to be the first hero 
in the romance of the gondoliers, and he certainly de- 
serves to rank with that long line of imaginary person- 
ages who have made childhood so wretched and tract- 
able. The second is the Innocent Baker-Boy already 
named, who was put to death on suspicion of having 
murdered a noble, because in the dead man's heart was 
found a dagger fitting a sheath which the baker had 
picked up in the street, on the morning of the murder, 
and kept in his possession. Many years afterwards, a 
malefactor who died in Padua confessed the murder, 
and thereupon two lamps were lighted before a shrine 
in the southern, fagade of St. Mark's Church, — one for 
the murdered nobleman's soul, and the other for that of 
the innocent boy. Such is the gondoliers' story, and the 
lamps still burn every night before the shrine from dark 
till dawn, in witness of its truth. The fact of the murder 
and its guiltless expiation is an incident of Venetian 
histor}^, and it is said that the Council of the Ten never 
pronounced a sentence of death thereafter till they had 
been solemnly warned by one of their number with 
" Ricordatevi del povero Fornaretto ! " (Remember the 
poor Baker-Boy !) The poet Dall 'Ongaro has woven 
the story into a touching tragedy ; but I believe the poet 
is still to be born who shall take from the gondoliers 
their Veneranda Porta, and place her historic figure in 
dramatic literature. Veneranda Porta was a lady of the 
days of the Republic, between whom and her husband 
existed an incompatibility. This was increased by the 



74 VENETIAN LIFE 

course of Signora Porta in taking a lover, and at last it 
led to the assassination of the husband by the paramours. 
The head of the murdered man was found in one of the 
canals, and being exposed, as the old custom was, upon 
the granite pedestal at the corner of St. Mark's Church, 
it was recognized by his brother, who found among the 
papers on which the long hair was curled fragments of 
a letter he had written to the deceased. The crime was 
traced to the paramours, and being brought before the 
Ten, they were both condemned to be hanged between 
the columns of the Piazzetta. The gondoliers relate that 
when the sentence was pronounced, Veneranda said to 
the Chief of the Ten, '' But as for me the sentence will 
never be carried out. You cannot hang a woman. Con- 
sider the impropriety ! '' The Venetian rulers were wise 
men in their generation, and far from being balked by 
this question of delicacy, the Chief replied, solving it, 
" My dear, you shall be hanged in my breeches." 

It is very coarse salt which keeps one of these stories ; 
another is remembered because it concerns one of the 
people ; and another for its abomination and horror. 
The incidents of Venetian history which take the fancy 
and touch the sensibility of the world seem hardly 
known to the gondoliers, the most intelligent and 
quick-witted of the populace, and themselves the very 
stuff that some romantic dreams of Venice are made of. 
However sad the fact, it is undeniable that the stories 
of the sausage-maker whose broth was flavored with 
murder, and the baker-boy who suffered guiltlessly, and 
that savage jest at the expense of the murderess, inter- 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 75 

est these people more than the sorrows of the Foscari, 
the tragic fate of Carmagnola, or the story of Falier, — 
which last they know partly, however, because of the 
scandal about Falier's wife. Yet after all, though the 
gondoliers are not the gondoliers of imaginative litera- 
ture, they have qualities which recommended them to 
my liking, and I look back upon my acquaintance with 
two or three of them in a very friendly spirit. Compared 
with the truculent hackmen who prey upon the travel- 
ing public in all other cities of the civilized world, they 
are eminently intelligent and amiable. Rogues they are, 
of course, for small dishonesties are the breath in the 
nostrils of common carriers by land or water, every- 
where ; but the trickery of the gondoliers is so good- 
natured and simple that it can hardly offend. A little 
jocular sagacity defeats their profoundest purposes of 
swindling, and no one enjoys their exposure half so 
much as themselves, while a faint prospect of future 
employment purifies them of every trait of dishonesty. 
I had only one troublesome experience with them, and 
that was in the case of the old gondolier who taught me 
to row. He, when I had no longer need of his services, 
plunged into drunkenness, and came and dismissed me 
one day with every mark of ignominy. But he after- 
wards forgave me, and saluted me kindly when we met. 

Ill 

The immediate goal of every gondolier's ambition is 
to serve, no matter for how short a time, an Inglese, by 
which generic title nearly all foreigners except Germans 



76 VENETIAN LIFE 

are known to him. The Inglese, whether he be English 
or American, is apt to make the tour of the whole city 
in a gondola, and to give handsome drink-money at 
the end ; whereas your Tedesco frugally walks to every 
place accessible by land, or when, in a party of six or 
eight, he takes a gondola, plants himself upon the letter 
of the tariff, and will give no more than the rate fixed 
by law. The gondolier is therefore flowingly polite to 
the Inglese, and he is even civil to the Tedesco ; but he 
is not at all bound in courtesy to that provincial Italian 
who comes from the country to Venice, bargains furi- 
ously for his boat, and commonly pays under the tariff. 
The Venetian, on the rare occasion when he takes 
a gondola, makes no lavish demand such as " How 
much do you want for carrying me to the railway sta- 
tion ? " Lest the fervid imagination of the gondolier rise 
to zwanzigers and florins, and a tedious dispute ensue, 
he asks: "How many centissimi do you want?" and 
the contract is made for a number of soldi. 

The number of private gondolas owned in Venice is 
not very great. The custom is rather to hire a gondolier 
with his boat. The exclusive use of the gondola is thus 
secured, and the gondolier gives his services as a do- 
mestic when off his special duty. He waits at table, 
goes marketing, takes the children to school, and serves 
the ladies as footman, for five francs a day, himself pay- 
ing the proprietor of the gondola about a franc daily 
for the boat. In former times, when Venice was rich 
and prosperous, many noble families kept six or seven 
gondolas ; and what with this service, and the numer- 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 77 

ous gala-days of the Republic, when the whole city took 
boat for the Lido, or the Giudecca, or Murano, and the 
gondoliers were allowed to exact any pay they could, 
they were a numerous and prosperous class. But these 
times have passed from Venice forever, and though the 
gondoliers are still, counting the boatmen of the Giu- 
decca and Lido, some thousands in number, there are 
comparatively few young men among them, and their 
gains are meagre. 

In the little city of Venice, where the dialect spoken 
at Canareggio or Castello is a different tongue from 
that heard under the Procuratie of St. Mark's Place, the 
boatmen of the several quarters of the city of course 
vary greatly in character and appearance ; and the gon- 
dolier who lounges at the base of the columns of the 
Piazzetta, and airily invites the Inglesi to tours of the 
Grand Canal, is of quite a different type from the weather- 
beaten barcaiuolOy who croaks ^^ Barca!^^ at the prome- 
naders on the Zattere. But all, as I say, are harmless 
enough, and however loudly they quarrel among them- 
selves, they never pass from the defamation of their 
female relatives to blows. As for the game of knives, 
as it is said to be played at Naples, I doubt if it is much 
known to the populace of Venice. Only the doctors let 
blood there, — though from their lancets it flows pretty 
freely and constantly. 

It is true that the gondolier loves best of every- 
thing a clamorous quarrel, carried on with the canal 
between him and his antagonist ; but next to this, he 
loves to spend his leisure at the ferry in talking of 



78 VENETIAN LIFE 

eating and of money, and he does not differ from 
many of his fellow-citizens in his choice of topics. I 
have seldom caught a casual expression from passers 
in the streets of Venice which did not relate in some 
way either to gold napoleons, zwanzigers, florins, or 
soldi, or to wine and polenta. I note this trait in the 
Venetians, which Goldoni observed in the Milanese a 
hundred years ago, and which I incline to believe is 
common to all Italians. The gondoliers talk a great 
deal in figure and hyperbole, and their jocose chaff 
is quite inscrutable even to some classes of Venetians. 
With foreigners, to whom the silence and easy progress 
of the gondola gives them the opportunity to talk, they 
are fond of using a word or two of French. They are 
quick at retort, and have a clever answer ready for 
most occasions. I was one day bargaining for a boat 
to the Lido, whither I refused to be taken in a shabby 
gondola, or at a rate higher than seventy-five soldi for 
the trip. At last the patience of the gondoliers was ex- 
hausted, and one of them called out, " Somebody fetch 
the Bucintoro, and take this gentleman to the Lido for 
seventy-five soldi I " (The Bucintoro being the mag- 
nificent barge in which the Doge went to wed the 
Adriatic.) 

The skill with which the gondoliers manage their 
graceful craft is always admired by strangers, and is 
certainly admirable. The gondola is very long and 
slender, and rises high from the water at either end. 
Both bow and stern are sharp, the former being orna- 
mented with that deeply serrated blade of steel, which 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 79 

it is the pride of the gondolier to keep bright as silver, 
and the poop having a small platform, not far behind 
the cabin, on which he stands when he rows. The dan- 
ger of collision has always obliged Venetian boatmen to 
face the bow, and the stroke with the oar (for the gon- 
dolier uses only a single oar) is made by pushing, and 
not by pulling. No small degree of art (as I learned 
from experience) is required to keep the gondola's head 
straight, all the strokes being made on one side, and the 
sculling return of the oar-blade, preparatory for each 
new stroke, is extremely difficult to manage. Under 
the hands of the gondolier, the gondola seems a living 
thing, full of lithe and winning movement. The wood- 
work of the little cabin is elaborately carved, and it 
is usually furnished with mirrors and seats luxuriously 
cushioned. The cabin is removable at pleasure, and is 
generally taken off and replaced by awnings in sum- 
mer. But in the evening, when the fair Venetians go 
out in their gondolas to take the air, even this awn- 
ing is dispensed with, and the long slender boat glides 
darkly down the Grand Canal, bearing its dazzling 
freight of pale-faced, black-eyed beauty, and flashing 
jewels, in full view. 

As for the singing of the gondoliers, they are not the 
only class of Venetians who have not good voices, but I 
am scarcely inclined to regret the silence which long ago 
fell upon them. I am quite satisfied with the peculiar note 
of warning which they utter as they approach the corner 
of a canal, and which, meaning simply, **To the Right," 
or " To the Left," is a most pathetic and melancholy 



8o VENETIAN LIFE 

sound. If, putting aside my own comfort, I have some- 
times wished, for the sake of a dear, sentimental old 
friend at home, who loves such idle illusions with an ar- 
dor unbecoming his years, that I might hear the voice, 

" of Adria's gondolier, 
By distance mellowed, o'er the waters sweep," 

I must still confess that I never did hear it under similar 
circumstances, except in conversation across half a mile 
of lagoon, when, as usual, the burden of the lay was 
polenta or soldi. 

A recent Venetian writer, describing the character of 
the lower classes of Venice, says: "No one can deny 
that our populace is loquacious and quick-witted ; but, 
on the other hand, no one can deny that it is regardless 
of improvement. Venice, a city exceptional in its con- 
struction, its customs, and its habits, has also an excep- 
tional populace. It still feels, although sixty-eight years 
have passed, the influence of the fallen Republic, of that 
oligarchic government, which, affording almost every 
day some amusement to the people, left them no time 
to think of their offended rights. . . . Since 1859 Ven- 
ice has resembled a sepulchre of the living, — squalor 
and beggary gaining ground with each day, and com- 
merce, with few exceptions, converted into monopoly; 
yet the populace remains attached to its old habits, and 
will have its pleasure. If the earnings are little, what 
then ? Must one die of ennui ? The cafe is depopulated: 
not so the drinking-house. The last day before the 
drawing of the lottery, the offices are thronged with fa- 
thers and mothers of families, who stint their children of 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 8i 

bread to buy dearly a few hours of golden illusion. . . . 
At the worst, there is the Monte di Pieta, as a last re- 
sort.'^ 

It is true, as this writer says, that the pleasure-loving 
populace still looks back fondly to the old Republican 
times of feasting and holidays ; but there is certainly 
no truth any more in the old idea that any part of Italy 
is a place where people may be "idle with impunity," 
or make amusement the serious business of life. I can 
remember that the book from which I received my first 
impressions of geography was illuminated with a picture 
professing to represent Italian customs. The spirit of in- 
quiry had long before caused me to doubt the exact fidel- 
ity of this representation ; but it cost me a pang to learn 
that the picture was utterly delusive. It has been no 
part of my experience in Venice to see an Italian sitting 
upon the ground, and strumming the guitar, while two 
gayly dressed peasants danced to the music. Indeed, 
the indolence of Venetians is listless and silent, not play- 
ful or joyous ; and as I learned to know their life more 
intimately, I came to understand that in many cases 
they are idle from despair of finding work, and that indo- 
lence is as much their fate as their fault. Any diligence 
of theirs is surprising to us of northern and free lands, 
because their climate subdues and enervates us, and be- 
cause we can see before them no career open to intelli- 
gent industry. With the poorest, work is necessarily 
a hand-to-hand struggle against hunger; with those 
who would not absolutely starve without it, work is an 
inexplicable passion. 



82 VENETIAN LIFE 

IV 

Partly because the ways of these people are so child- 
like and simple in many things, and partly from one's 
own swindling tendency to take one's self in (a tendency 
really fatal to all sincerity of judgment, and incalculably 
mischievous to such downfallen peoples as have felt the 
baleful effects of the world's sentimental, impotent sym- 
pathy), there is something pathetic in the patient con- 
tent with which Italians work. They have naturally so 
large a capacity for enjoyment, that the degree of self- 
denial involved in labor seems exorbitant, and one feels 
that these children, so loved of Nature, and so gifted by 
her, are harshly dealt with by their stepmother Circum- 
stance. No doubt there ought to be truth in the silly old 
picture, if there is none, and I would willingly make be- 
lieve to credit it, if I could. I am glad that they at least 
work in old-world, awkward, picturesque ways, and not 
in commonplace, handy, modern fashion. Neither the 
habits nor the implements of labor are changed since 
the progress of the Republic ceased, and her heart be- 
gan to die within her. All sorts of mechanics' tools are 
clumsy and inconvenient : the turner's lathe moves by 
broken impulses ; door-hinges are made to order, and 
lift the door from the ground as it opens upon them ; 
all nails and tacks are hand-made ; window-sashes are 
contrived to be glazed without putty, andthe panes are 
put in from the top, so that to repair a broken glass the 
whole sash is taken apart ; cooking-stoves are unknown 
to the native cooks, who work at an open fire, with 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 83 

crane and dangling pot-hooks ; furniture is put together 
with wooden pegs insteads of screws ; you do not buy a 
door-lock at a hardware store, — you get a locksmith 
to make it, and he comes with a leathern satchel full of 
tools to fit and finish it on the door. The wheelbarrow 
of this civilization is peculiarly wonderful in construc- 
tion, with a prodigious wooden wheel, and a ponderous, 
incapable body. The canals are dredged with scoops 
mounted on long poles, and manned each by three or 
four Chiozzotti. There never was a pile-driving machine 
known in Venice ; nor a steam-tug in all the channels of 
the lagoons, through which the largest craft are towed 
to and from the ports by row-boats. In the model of the 
sea-going vessels there has apparently been little change 
from the first. Yet in spite of all this backwardness in 
invention, the city is full of beautiful workmanship in 
every branch of artificing, and the Venetians are still 
the best sailors in the Adriatic. 

I do not offer the idea as a contribution to statistics, 
but it seems to me that the most active branch of in- 
dustry in Venice is plucking fowls. In summer the peo- 
ple all work on their thresholds, and in their windows, 
and as nearly out of doors as the narrowness of the 
streets will let them, and it is hard to pass through any 
part of the city without coming to a poulterer's shop, in 
the door of which inevitably sits a boy, tugging at the 
plumage of some wretched bird. He is seldom to be 
seen except in that crisis of plucking when he seems to 
have all but finished ; yet he seems never to accomplish 
the fact perfectly. Perhaps it is part of his hard fate that 



84 VENETIAN LIFE 

the feathers shall grow again under his hand as fast as 
he plucks them away : at the restaurants, I know, the 
quantity of plumage one devours in consuming roast 
chicken is surprising — at first. The birds are always 
very lean, too, and have but a languid and weary look, 
in spite of the ardent manner in which the boy clasps 
them while at work. It may be that the Venetians do 
not like fat poultry. Their turkeys, especially, are of 
that emaciation which is attributed among ourselves 
only to the turkey of Job ; and as for the geese and 
ducks, they can only interest anatomists. It is as if the 
long ages of incursion and oppression which have im- 
poverished and devastated Italy had at last taken effect 
upon the poultry, and made it as poor as the population. 

Of many public figures in Venice, if I had my choice, 
I think I must select a certain ruffian who deals in dog- 
fiesh, as the nearest my ideal of what a vagabond should 
be in all respects. He stands habitually under the Old 
Procuratie, beside a basket of small puppies in that snuf- 
fling and quivering state which appears to be the nor- 
mal condition of very young dogs, and occupies himself 
in conversation with an adjacent dealer in grapes and 
peaches, or sometimes fastidiously engages in trimming 
the hair upon the closely shaven bodies of the dogs ; for 
in Venice it is the ambition of every dog to look as much 
like the Lion of St. Mark as the nature of the case will 
permit. At times he makes expeditions to the groups 
of travelers always seated in summer before the Cafi^ 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 85 

Florian, appearing at such times with a very small 
puppy, — neatly poised upon the palm of his hand, and 
winking pensively, — which he advertises to the com- 
pany as a *' Beautiful Beast," or a *' Lovely Babe," ac- 
cording to the inspiration of his light and pleasant fancy. 
I think the latter term is used generally as a means of 
ingratiation with the ladies, with whom he has always a 
demeanor of agreeable gallantry. I never saw him sell 
any of these dogs, or ever in the least cast down by his 
failure to do so. His air is grave, but not severe ; there 
is even, at times, a certain playfulness in his manner, 
possibly attributable to sciampagnin. His curling black 
locks, together with his velveteen jacket and pantaloons, 
are oiled and glossy, and his beard is cut in the French 
imperial mode. His personal presence is unwhole- 
some, and it is chiefly his moral perfection that makes 
him fascinating. One is so confident of his fitness for 
his position and business, and of his entire contentment 
with it, that it is impossible not to exult in him. 

He is not without self-respect. I suspect it would 
be hard to find any Venetian of any vocation, however 
base, who forgets that he too is a man and a brother. 
There is enough servility in the language, — it is the 
fashion of the Italian tongue, with its Tu for inferiors 
and intimates, Voi for friendly equals, and Lei for 
superiors, — but in the manner there is none, and there 
is a sense of equality in the ordinary intercourse of 
the Venetians at once apparent to foreigners. 

All ranks are orderly ; the spirit of aggression 
seems not to exist among them, and the very boys and 



86 VENETIAN LIFE 

dogs in Venice are so well-behaved that I have never 
seen the slightest disposition in them to quarrel. Of 
course, it is of the street-boy — the biricchino^ the boy in 
his natural, unreclaimed state — that I speak. This state 
is here, in winter, marked by a clouded countenance, 
bare head, tatters, and wooden-soled shoes open at the 
heels ; in summer by a preternatural purity of person, 
by abandon to the amphibious pleasure of leaping off 
the bridges into the canals, and by an insatiable appe- 
tite for polenta, fried minnows, and watermelons. 

When one of these boys takes to beggary, as a great 
many of them do, out of a spirit of adventure and wish 
to pass the time, he carries out the enterprise with splen- 
did daring. A favorite artifice is to approach Charity 
with a slice of polenta in one hand, and, with the other 
extended, implore a soldo to buy cheese to eat with the 
polenta. The street-boys also often perform the duties 
of the gransieriy who draw your gondola to shore, and 
keep it firm with a hook. To this order of beggar I 
usually gave ; but one day at the railway station I had 
no soldi, and as I did not wish to render my friend 
discontented with future alms by giving silver, I de- 
liberately apologized, praying him to excuse me, and 
promising him for another time. I cannot forget the 
lofty courtesy with which he returned, ^^ S^ accomodi pur^ 
Signor! " They have sometimes a sense of humor, these 
poor swindlers, and can enjoy the exposure of their own 
enormities. An amiable rogue drew our gondola to land 
one evening when we went too late to see the church of 
San Giorgio Maggiore. The sacristan made us free of a 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 87 

perfectly dark church, and we rewarded him as if it 
had been noonday. On our return to the gondola, the 
same beggar whom we had just feed held out his hat 
for another alms. " But we have just paid you,'* we 
cried in an agony of desperation. "5^, signori!^^ he 
admitted, with an air of argument, ^^ e vero. Ma^ la 
chiesa ! " (Yes, gentlemen, it is true. But the church !) 
he added, with confidential insinuation and a patroniz- 
ing wave of the hand toward the edifice, as if he had 
been San Giorgio himself, and held the church as a 
source of revenue. This was too much, and we laughed ; 
at which, realizing the amusing abomination of his 
conduct, he himself joined in our laugh with a cheer- 
fulness that won our hearts. 

VI 

Beggary is attended by no disgrace in Italy, and it 
therefore comes that no mendicant is without a proper 
degree of the self-respect common to all classes. The 
habit of taking gifts of money is so general and shame- 
less that the street beggars must be diffident souls in- 
deed if they hesitated to ask for it. A perfectly well- 
dressed and well-mannered man will take ten soldi 
from you for a trifling service, and not consider him- 
self abased. The detestable custom of largess, instead 
of wages, still obtains in so great degree in Venice that 
a physician, when asked for his account, replies : "What 
you please to give." Knowing these customs, I hope I 
have never acted discourteously to the street beggars 
of Venice, even when I gave them nothing, and I know 



88 VENETIAN LIFE 

that only one of them ever so far forgot himself as to 
curse me for not giving. I think he was not in his right 
mind at the time. 

There were two mad beggars in the parish of San 
Stefano, whom I should be sorry to leave unmentioned. 
One, who presided chiefly over the Campo San Stefano, 
professed to be also a facchino, but I never saw him 
employed, except in addressing the idlers whom a 
brawling noise always draws together in Venice. He 
had been a soldier, and he sometimes put himself at the 
head of a file of Croats passing through the campo, and 
gave them the word of command, to the great amuse- 
ment of the swarthy barbarians. He was a good deal in 
drink, and when in this state was proud to go before 
any ladies who might be passing, and clear away the 
boys and idlers, to make room for them. When not oc- 
cupied in any of these ways, he commonly slept in the 
arcades of the old convent. 

But the mad beggar of Campo Sant' Angelo seemed 
to have a finer sense of what became him as a madman 
and a beggar, and never made himself obnoxious by 
his noise. He was, in fact, very fat and amiable, and in 
the summer lay asleep, for the most part, at a certain 
street corner which belonged to him. When awake he 
was a man of extremely complaisant presence, and suf- 
fered no lady to go by without a compliment to her com- 
plexion, her blonde hair, or her beautiful eyes, whichever 
it might be. He got money for these attentions, and 
people paid him for any sort of witticism. One day he 
said to the richest young dandy of the city : " Pah I you 









^ki^Xy. 




>:.;!; 



:^^K 



^^y 



■Yir^^mm 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 89 

stomach me with your perfumes and fine airs ; " for 
which he received half a florin. His remarks to gentle- 
men had usually a sarcastic flavor. I am sorry to say 
that so excellent a madman was often drunk and unable 
to fulfill his duties to society. 

There are, of course, laws against mendicancy in 
Venice, and* they are, of course, never enforced. Beg- 
gars abound everywhere, and nobody molests them. 
There was long a troop of weird sisters in Campo San 
Stefano, who picked up a livelihood from the foreigners 
passing to and from the Academy of Fine Arts. They 
addressed people with the title of Count, and no doubt 
gained something by this sort of heraldry, though there 
are counts in Venice almost as poor as themselves, and 
titles are not distinctions. The Venetian seldom gives 
to beggars; he says deliberately, '' No go niente'' (I 
have nothing), or ^^Quando ritornero^^ (when I return), 
and never comes back that way. I noticed that profes- 
sional hunger and cold took this sort of denial very 
patiently, as they did every other; but I confess I had 
never the heart to practice it. In my walks to the Pub- 
lic Gardens there was a venerable man with the beard 
and bearing of a patriarch, whom I encountered on the 
last bridge of the Riva, and who there asked alms of me. 
When I gave him a soldo, he returned me a blessing 
which I would be ashamed to take in the United States 
for half a dollar ; and when the soldo was in some in- 
accessible pocket, and I begged him to await my com- 
ing back, he said sweetly, " Very well, Signor, I will be 
here." And I must say, that he never broke his promise, 



90 VENETIAN LIFE 

or suffered me, for shame's sake, to break mine. He 
was quite a treasure to me in this respect, and assisted 
me to form habits of punctuality. 

VII 

That exuberance of manner which one notes, the first 
thing, in his intercourse with Venetians, characterizes 
all classes, but is most excessive and relishing in the 
poor. There is a vast deal of ceremony with every order, 
and one hardly knows what to do with the numbers of 
compliments it is necessary to respond to. A Venetian 
does not come to see you, he comes to revere you ; 
he not only asks if you be well when he meets you, but 
he bids you remain well at parting, and desires you 
to salute for him all common friends ; he reveres you 
at leave-taking ; he will sometimes consent to incom- 
mode you with a visit ; he will relieve you of the dis- 
turbance when he rises to go. All spontaneous wishes 
which must, with us, take original forms, for lack of the 
complimentary phrase, are formally expressed by him : 
good appetite to you, when you go to dinner ; much 
enjoyment, when you go to the theatre ; a pleasant 
walk, if you meet in promenade. He is your servant 
at meeting and parting; he begs to be commanded 
when he has misunderstood you. But courtesy takes 
its highest flights, as I hinted, from the poorest com- 
pany. Acquaintances of this sort, when not on the Cib 
ciappa footing, or that of the familiar thee and thou, 
always address each other in Lei (lordship), or ElOy as 
the Venetians have it; and their compliment-making 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 91 

at encounter and separation is endless : I salute you ! 
Remain well! Master I Mistress I {Paron/ parona/)he- 
ing repeated as long as the polite persons are within 
hearing. 

One day, as we passed through the crowded Mer- 
ceria, an old Venetian friend of mine, who trod upon the 
dress of a young person before us, called out, ^^Scicsate, 
bella giovane r^ (Pardon, beautiful girl!) She was not 
so fair or so young as I have seen women ; but she half 
turned her face with a forgiving smile, and seemed 
pleased with the accident that had won her the amiable 
apology. The waiter of a cafe frequented by the peo- 
ple says to the ladies for whom he places seats, "Take 
this place, beautiful blonde ; " or, " Sit here, lovely bru- 
nette," as it happens. 

A Venetian who enters or leaves any place of public 
resort touches his hat to the company, and one day at 
the restaurant some ladies, who had been dining there, 
said ** Complimenti ! ^^ on going out, with a grace that 
went near to make the beefsteak tender. It is this 
uncostly gentleness of bearing which gives a winning 
impression of the whole people, whatever selfishness or 
real discourtesy lie beneath it. At home it sometimes 
seems we are in such haste to live and be done with it, 
that we have no time to be polite. Or is popular polite- 
ness merely a vice of servile peoples ? And is it alto- 
gether better to be rude? I wish it were not. If you 
are lost in his city (and you are pretty sure to be lost 
there, at first), a Venetian will go with you wherever 
you wish ; and he will do this amiable litde service out 



92 VENETIAN LIFE ^ 

of what one may say old civilization has established in 
place of goodness of heart, but which is perhaps not so 
diflerent from it. 

You hear people in the streets bless each other in 
the most dramatic fashion. I once caught these parting 
words between an old man and a young girl : — 

Giovanetta, Revered sir ! {Paron riverito /) 

Vecchio, (With that peculiar backward wave and 
beneficent wag of the hand, possible only to Italians.) 
Blessed child ! {Benedetta /) 

It was in a crowd, but no one turned round at the 
utterance of terms which Anglo-Saxons would scarcely 
use in their most emotional moments. The old gentle- 
man who sold boxes for the theatre in the Old Pro- 
curatie always gave me his benediction when I took 
a box. 

There is equal exuberance of invective, and I have 
heard many fine maledictions on the Venice streets, 
but I recollect none more elaborate than that of a gon- 
dolier who, after listening peacefully to a quarrel be- 
tween two other boatmen, suddenly took part against 
one of them, and saluted him with, — "Ah! baptized 
son of a dog I And if I had been present , at thy bap- 
tism, I would have dashed thy brains out against the 
baptismal font ! " 

All the theatrical forms of passion were visible in a 
scene I witnessed in a little street near San Samuele, 
where I found the neighborhood assembled at doors 
and windows in honor of a wordy battle between two 
poor women. One of these had been forced in-doors 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 93 

by her prudent husband, and the other upbraided her 
across the marital barrier. The assailant was washing, 
and twenty times she left her tub to revile the besieged, 
who thrust her long arms out over those of her hus- 
band, and turned each reproach back upon her who 
uttered it, thus : — 

Assailant. Beast! 

Besieged. Thou I 

A, Fool I 

B. Thou I 

A. Liar! 

B. Thou! 

E via in seguito / At last the assailant, beating her 
breast with both hands, and tempestuously swaying her 
person back and forth, wreaked her scorn in one wild 
outburst of vituperation, and returned finally to her tub, 
wisely saying, on the purple verge of asphyxiation, **0, 
non discorro piii con genteJ^ (I won't talk any longer 
with people.) 

I returned half an hour later, and she was laughing 
and playing sweetly with her babe. 

VIII 

It suits the passionate nature of the Italians to have 
incredible ado about buying and selling, and a day's 
shopping is a sort of campaign, from which the shopper 
returns plundered and discomfited, or laden with the 
spoil of vanquished shopmen. 

The embattled commercial transaction is conducted 
in this wise : — 



94 VENETIAN LIFE 

The shopper enters, and prices a given article. The 
shopman names a sum of which only the fervid imag- 
ination of the South could conceive as corresponding 
to the value of the goods. 

The purchaser instantly starts back with a wail of 
horror and indignation, and the shopman throws him- 
self forward over the counter with a protest that, far 
from being dear, the article is ruinously cheap at the 
price stated, though they may nevertheless agree for 
something less. 

What, then, is the very most ultimate price ? 

Properly, the very most ultimate price is so much. 
(Say, the smallest trifle under the price first asked.) 

The purchaser moves toward the door. He comes 
back, and offers one third of the very most ultimate 
price. 

The shopman, with a gentle desperation, declares 
that the thing cost him as much. He cannot really take 
the offer. He regrets, but he cannot. That the gentle- 
man would say something morel So much, for ex- 
ample. That he regard the stuff, — its quality, fashion, 
beauty. 

The gentleman laughs him to scorn. Ah, heigh ! and, 
coming forward, he picks up the article and reviles it. 
Out of the mode, old, fragile, ugly of its kind. 

The shopman defends his wares. There is not such 
quantity and quality elsewhere in Venice. But if the 
gentleman will give even so much (still something pre- 
posterous), he may have it, though truly its sale for that 
money is ruin. 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 95 

The shopper walks straight to the door. The shop- 
man calls him back from the threshold, or sends his boy 
to call him back from the street. 

Let him accommodate himself, — which is to say, take 
the thing at his own price. 

He takes it. 

The shopman says cheerfully, ** Servo suo / " 

The purchaser responds, '^ Bon d\! Paron!^^ (Good- 
day ! Master ! ) 

Thus, as I said, every bargain is a battle, and every 
purchase a triumph or a defeat. The whole thing is 
understood ; the opposing forces know perfectly well 
all that is to be done beforehand, and retire after the 
contest, like the captured knights in "Morgante Maggi- 
ore," " calm as oil," however furious and deadly their 
struggle may have appeared to strangers. 

Foreigners soon discern, however, that there is no 
bloodshed in such encounters, and enter into them with 
a zeal as great as that of natives, though with less skill. 
I knew one American who prided himself on such mat- 
ters, and who haughtily closed a certain bargain with- 
out words, as he called it. The shopman offered several 
articles, for which he demanded prices amounting in all 
to ninety-three francs. His wary customer rapidly com- 
puted the total and replied, ** Without words, now, I '11 
give you a hundred francs for the lot." With a pen- 
sive elevation of the eyebrows, and a reluctant shrug 
of the shoulders, the shopman suffered him to take 
them. 



96 VENETIAN LIFE 

IX 

Your Venetian is simpatico^ if he is anything. He is 
always ready to feel and to express the deepest con- 
cern, and I rather think he likes to have his sensibilities 
appealed to, as a pleasant and healthful exercise for 
them. His sympathy begins at home, and he generously 
pities himself as the victim of a combination of misfor- 
tunes, which leave him citizen of a country without lib- 
erty, without commerce, without money, without hope. 
He next pities his fellow-citizens, who are as desperately 
situated as himself. Then he pities the degradation, 
corruption, and despair into which the city has fallen. 
And I think his compassion is the most hopeless thing 
in his character. That alone is touched ; that alone is 
moved ; and when its impulse ceases he and everything 
about him remain just as before. 

With the poor, this sensibility is amusingly mischiev- 
ous. They never speak of one of their own class without 
adding some such ejaculation as " Poor fellow ! " or '* Poor 
little thing I '^ They pity all wretchedness, no matter from 
what cause, and the greatest rogue has their compassion 
when under a cloud. It is all but impossible to punish 
thieves in Venice, where they are very bold and numer- 
ous ; for the police are too much occupied with politi- 
cal surveillance to give due attention to mere cutpurses 
and housebreakers, and even when they make an arrest, 
people can hardly be got to bear witness against their 
unhappy prisoner. Povareto anca lu ! There is no work 
and no money; people must do something; so they 



VENETIAN TRAITS AND CHARACTERS 97 

steal. Ci vuol pazienza! Bear witness against an ill-fated 
fellow-sufferer ? God forbid I Stop a thief ? I think a 
burglar might run from Rialto to San Marco, and not one 
compassionate soul in the Merceria would do aught to 
arrest him — povareto ! Thieves came to the house of 
a friend of mine at noonday, when his servant was out. 
They tied their boat to his landing, entered his house, 
filled their boat with plunder from it, and rowed out into 
the canal. The neighbors on the floor above saw them, 
and cried ** Thieves ! thieves I " It was in the most fre- 
quented part of the Grand Canal, where scores of boats 
passed and repassed ; but no one molested the thieves, 
and these povareti escaped with their booty. The rogues, 
it must be confessed, are often very polite. This same 
friend of mine one day found a man in the act of getting 
down into a boat with his favorite singing-bird in its cage. 
** What are you doing with that bird ? " he thought him- 
self authorized to inquire. The thief looked about him 
a moment, and perceiving himself detected, handed 
back the cage with a cool ''La scusi!^^ (Beg pardon!) 
as if its removal had been a trifling inadvertence. 



XXI. SOCIETY 

BYZANTINE ORIGIN OF VENETIAN CIVILIZATION — 
ORIENTAL SECLUSION OF WOMEN, AND ITS CONSE- 
QUENCES — SOME SOCIETY OBSERVATIONS— THE BEST 
SOCIETY IN VENICE — THE CHURCH AND SOCIETY — 
THE NOBILITY UNDER AUSTRIAN TENURE — VILLAS 
AND THE VILLEGGIATURA — PATRICIANS OF THE 
DECADENCE 

IT was natural that the Venetians, whose State lay 
upon the borders of the Greek Empire, and whose 
greatest commerce was with the Orient, should be 
influenced by the Byzantine civilization. Mutinelli re- 
cords that in the twelfth century they had many religious 
offices and observances in common with the Greeks, 
especially the homily or sermon, which formed a very 
prominent part of the service of worship. At this time, 
also, when the rupture of the Lombard League had left 
other Italian cities to fall back into incessant local wars, 
and barbarized their customs, the people of Venice 
dressed richly and delicately, after the Greek fashion. 
They combed and dressed their hair, and wore the long, 
pointed Greek beard ; and though these Byzantine 
modes fell, for the most part, into disuse, in after-time 
(a Foscarini, in 1687, was the last patrician who wore 
the beard), there is still a peculiarity of dress among the 
women of the Venetian poor which is said to have been 
inherited from the oriental costumes of Constantinople ; 



SOCIETY 99 

namely, that high-heeled, sharp-toed slipper, or san- 
dal, which covers the front of the foot, and drops from 
the heel at every step, requiring no slight art in the 
wearer to keep it on at all. 

I 

The philosophic vision, accustomed to relate trifling 
particulars to important generalities, may perhaps see 
another relic of Byzantine civilization among the Vene- 
tians, in that jealous restraint which they put upon all 
the social movements of young girls, and the great 
liberty which they allow to married women. It is true 
that their damsels are now no longer imprisoned under 
the parental roof, as they were in times when they never 
left its shelter but to go, closely veiled, to communion 
in the church, on Christmas and Easter; but it is still 
quite impossible that any young lady should go out 
alone. Indeed, she would scarcely be secure from insult 
in broad day if she did so. She goes out with her gov- 
erness, and, even with this protection, she cannot be too 
guarded and circumspect in her bearing ; for in Venice 
a woman has to encounter upon the public street a rude 
license of glance, from men of all ages and conditions, 
which falls little short of outrage. They stare at her as 
she approaches ; and I have seen them turn and con- 
template ladies as they passed them, keeping a few 
paces in advance, with a leisurely sidelong gait. Some- 
thing of this insolence might be forgiven to thoughtless, 
hot-blooded youth ; but the leer that the elders of the 
Piazza and the cafes put on at the approach of a pretty 



loo VENETIAN LIFE 

girl is an ordeal which few women, not as thoroughly 
inured to it as the Venetians, would care to encounter. 
However, as I never heard the trial complained of 
by any but foreigners, I suppose it is not regarded by 
Italians as intolerable ; and I have shown that an au- 
dible compliment, upon the street, to a pretty girl of 
the poor, is by no means an affront. 

As long as Garibaldi lives, I shall not let myself be- 
lieve that a race which could produce a man so signally 
truthful and single-hearted is a race of liars and cheats. 
I think the student of their character should also be 
slow to upbraid Italians for their duplicity, without ad- 
mitting, in palliation of the fault, facts of long ages of 
alien and domestic oppression, in politics and religion, 
which must account for a vast deal of every kind of evil 
in Italy. Yet after exception and palliation has been duly 
made, it must be confessed that in Italy it does not 
seem to be thought shameful to tell lies, and that the 
standard of sincerity, compared with that of the English 
or American, is low, as the Italian standard of morality 
in other respects is also comparatively low. 

But the immorality of any people will not be directly 
and wholly seen by the stranger who does not seek it. 
Certainly, the experience and acquaintance of a for- 
eigner in Italy must have been most unfortunate, if 
they confirm all the stories of corruption told by Italians 
themselves. A little generous distrust is best in mat- 
ters of this kind ; but while I strengthen my incredulity 
concerning the depravation of Venetian society in one 
respect, I am not disposed to deal so leniently with it 



SOCIETY loi 

in others. The Italian theory of morals apparently does 
not admit the existence of opportunity without guilt. 
It is by rare chance that a young girl makes acquaint- 
ance with young men in society ; she seldom talks with 
them at the parties to which she is sometimes taken 
by her mother, and they do not call upon her at her 
home ; while for her to walk alone with a young man 
would be vastly more scandalous than much worse 
things, and is, consequently, unheard of. The Italians 
say freely they cannot trust their women as northern 
women are trusted ; and some Italian women frankly 
confess that their sex would be worse if it were trusted 
more. But the truth does not appear in this shallow 
suspicion and this shallow self-conviction; and one 
who cares to have a just estimate of this matter must 
by no means believe all the evil he hears. There may 
be much corruption in society, but there is infinitely 
more wrong in the habits of idle gossip and guilty 
scandal, which eat the sense of shame and pity out 
of the heart of Venice. As it is part of the existing 
political demonstration to avoid the opera and theatre, 
the Venetians are deprived of these harmless distrac- 
tions ; balls and evening parties, at which people, in 
other countries, do nothing worse than bore each other, 
are almost unknown, for the same reason ; and when 
persons meet in society, it is too often to retail person- 
alities, or Italian politics made as unintelligible and as 
like local gossip as possible. The talk which is small and 
noxious in private circles is the same thing at the caf6s, 
when the dread of spies does not reduce the talkers to 



I02 VENETIAN LIFE 

a dreary silence. Not permitted to feel the currents of 
literature and the great world's thought in religion 
freshly and directly, they seldom speak of these things, 
except in that tone of obsolete superiority which Italians 
are still prone to affect, as the monopolists of culture. 
As to Art, the Venetians are insensible to it and igno- 
rant of it, here in the very atmosphere of Art, to a 
degree absolutely amusing. 

The foreigner must take his knowledge of such mat- 
ters at second-hand, and I do not pretend that mine is 
the result of direct observation. Admitting, however, 
that a great part of the corruption of society is merely 
imputed, there still remains, no doubt, something of 
real immorality to be accounted for. This, I think, is 
often to be attributed to the bad system of female edu- 
cation, and the habits of idleness in which women are 
bred. To Americans, the whole system of Italian edu- 
cation seems calculated to reduce women to a state of 
imbecile captivity before marriage ; and I should have 
no fault to find with the Italians that they are jealous 
in guarding those whom they have unfitted to protect 
themselves, but have rather to blame them that, after 
marriage, their women are thrown at once upon society, 
when worse than helpless against temptation. Except 
with those people who attempt to maintain a certain 
appearance in public upon insufficient means (and there 
are too many of these in Venice as everywhere else), 
and who spare in every other way that they may spend 
on dress, it does not often happen that Venetian women 
do their own household work. Servants are cheap and 



SOCIETY 103 

numerous, as they are uncleanly and untrustworthy, and 
the Venetians prefer to keep them ' rather than take 
part in housewifely duties ; and, since they must lavish 
upon dress and show, to suffer from cold and hunger in 
their fireless houses and at their meagre boards. In this 
way the young girls, kept imprisoned from the world, 
instead of learning cookery and other domestic arts, 
have the grievous burden of idleness added to that of 
their solitary confinement, not only among the rich and 
noble, but among that large class which is neither and 
wishes to appear both.^ 

I have said I do not think Venetians who give each 
other bad names are always to be credited, and I have 
no doubt that many a reputation in Venice is stained 
while the victim remains without guilt. A questioned 

* A clerk or employ^ with a salary of iSfty cents a day keeps a maid- 
servant, that his wife may fulfill to society the important duty of doing 
nothing. 

' The poet Gray, genteelly making the grand tour in 1740, wrote to his 
father from Florence : "The only thing the Italians shine in is their recep- 
tion of strangers. At such times everything is magnificence : the more re- 
markable as in their ordinary course of life they are parsimonious to a 
degree of nastiness. I saw in one of the vastest palaces of Rome (that of 
the Prince Pamfilio), the apartment which he himself inhabited, a bed that 
most servants in England would disdain to lie in, and furniture much like 
that of a soph at Cambridge. This man is worth 30,000/. a year." Italian 
nature has changed so Uttle in a century, that all this would hold admiraWy 
true of Italian life at this time. The goodly outside in religion, in morals, 
in everything, is too much the ambition of Italy; this achieved, she is con- 
tent to endure any pang of self-denial, and sell what little comfort she 
knows — it is mostly imported, like the word, from England — to strangers 
at fabulous prices. In Italy the luxuries of life are cheap, and the con- 
veniences unknown or excessively dear. 



I04 VENETIAN LIFE 

reputation is, however, no great social calamity; few 
people are so cruel as to blame it, though all discuss it ; 
and it is here that the harshness of American and Eng- 
lish society toward the erring woman (harshness which 
is not injustice, but half-justice only) contrasts visibly 
to our advantage with the bad naivete and lenity of the 
Italians. The carefully secluded Italian girl is accus- 
tomed to hear of things and speak of things which, with 
us, parents strive to keep from their daughters' know- 
ledge; and while her sense of dehcacy is thus early 
blunted, while she is thus used to know good and evil, 
she hears her father and mother comment on the sinful 
errors of a friend or neighbor, who visits them and 
meets them every day in society. If the girl reveres her 
parents at all, how can she think the sin, which they 
caress in the sinner, is so very bad ? If she escape these 
early influences of depravation ; if her idleness, and soli- 
tude, 2tnd precocious knowledge leave her unvitiated ; 
if-, when she goes into society, it is by marriage with a 
man who is neither a dotard nor a fortune-seeker, and 
who remains constant and does not tempt her, by neg- 
lect, to forestall offense and inflict anticipative reprisals 
— yet her purity goes uncredited, as her guilt would 
go unpunished. The wife must continue the long social 
eple of her girlhood if she would not be the prey of 

scandal. 

II 

I CONFESS that the little I saw of the innocent amuse- 
ments of society was not enough to convince me of 
their brilliancy and attractiveness ; but I doubt if a for- 



SOCIETY 105 

eigner can be a trustworthy judge of these things, and 
perhaps a sketch drawn by an aHen hand, in the best 
faith, might have an air of caricature. I would not, 
therefore, like to trust my own impression of social 
diversions. They were, very probably, much more lively 
and brilliant than I thought them. But Italians assem- 
bled anywhere, except at the theatre or the cafe, have a 
certain stiffness, all the more surprising, because tradi- 
tion has always led one to expect the reverse of them. 
I have seen nothing equal to the formality of this peo- 
ple, who deride colder nations for inflexible manners. 
At a musical soiree, attended by the class of people who 
at home would have been given to making acquaint- 
ance and to keeping up acquaintance, — the young men 
harmlessly talking and walking with the young girls, 
and the old people listening together, while constant 
movement and intercourse kept life in the assembly, 
and there was some real pleasure felt amidst a good 
deal of unavoidable suffering, — I say, I found such a 
soiree in Venice to be a spectacle of ladies planted in 
formal rows of low-necks and white dresses around the 
four sides of one room, and of gentlemen restively im- 
prisoned in another. During the music these devoted 
people listened attentively, and at the end the ladies 
lapsed back into their chairs and fanned themselves, 
while the gentlemen walked up and down the floor of 
their cell, and stopped, two by two, at the door of the 
ladies' room, glanced mournfully athwart the moral bar- 
rier which divided them, and sadly and dejectedly turned 
away. Amazed at this singular species of social enjoy- 



io6 VENETIAN LIFE 

ment, I inquired afterward, of a Venetian lady, if even- 
ing parties in Venice were usually such ordeals, and was 
discouraged to learn that what I had seen was scarcely 
an exaggeration of prevailing torments. Commonly 
people do not know each other, and it is difficult for 
the younger to procure introductions ; when there is pre- 
vious acquaintance, the presence of some commanding 
spirit is necessary to break the ice of propriety, and sub- 
stitute enjoyment for correctness of behavior. Even at 
dancing parties, where it would seem that the poetry of 
motion might do something to soften the rigid bosom 
of Venetian deportment, the poor young people sepa- 
rate after each dance, and take each sex its appointed 
prison, till the next quadrille ofiers them a temporary 
liberation. It is said that the assemblies of the Jews, 
while quite as unexceptionable in character, are far more 
lively than those of the Christians. The young Hebrews 
are frequently intelligent, well-bred, and witty, with a 
savoir faire which their Christian brethren lack. 

Most ladies of fashion receive calls on a certain day 
of each week, when it is made a matter of pride to re- 
ceive as many calls as possible. Nobody sits down, and 
few exchange more than a word with the hostess. In 
winter, the stove is heated on these reception days, and 
little cups of black coffee are passed round to the com- 
pany ; in summer lemonade is substituted for the coffee ; 
but in all seasons a thin, waferish slice of toasted rusk 
(the Venetian baicolo) is offered to each guest with the 
drink. At receptions where the sparsity of the com- 
pany permits the lady of the house to be seen, she is 



SOCIETY 107 

commonly visible on a sofa, surrounded by visitors in a 
half-circle. Nobody stays more than ten or fifteen min- 
utes, and I have sometimes found even this brief time 
of much greater apparent length, and apt to produce 
a low state of nerves, from which one seldom recovers 
before dinner. Gentlemen, however, do not much fre- 
quent these receptions ; and I assert again the diffidence 
I should feel in offering this glance at Venetian social 
enjoyment as conveying a just and full idea of it. There 
is no doubt that the Venetians find delight in their as- 
semblies, where a stranger seeks it in vain. I dare say 
they would not think our own reunions brilliant, and 
that, looking obliquely (as a foreigner must) on the most 
sensible faces at one of our evening parties, they might 
mistake the look of pathetic dejection, visible in them, 
as the expression of people rather bored by their pleas- 
ure than otherwise. 

There are persons in Venice, as well as everywhere 
else, of new-fashioned modes of thinking, and these 
strive to give a greater life and ease to their assem- 
blies, by attracting as many young men as possible ; 
and in their families, gentlemen are welcome to visit, 
and to talk with the young ladies in the presence of their 
mothers. But though such people are no more accused 
of impropriety than the straitest of the old-fashioned, 
they are not regarded with the greatest esteem, and 
their daughters do not so readily find husbands. The 
Italians are fickle, the women say ; they get soon tired 
of their wives after marriage, and when they see much 
of girls before marriage, they get tired of them then, 



io8 VENETIAN LIFE 

and never make them their wives. So it is much better 
to see nothing of a possible husband till you actually 
have him. I do not think conversazioni of any kind 
are popular with young men, however ; they like better 
to go to the cafes, and the people you meet at private 
houses are none the less interesting for being old, or 
middle-aged. A great many of the best families, at 
present, receive no company at all, and see their friends 
only in the most private manner ; though there are still 
cultivated circles to which proper introduction gives the 
stranger (who has no Austrian acquaintance) access. 
But unless he have thorough knowledge of Italian poli- 
tics localized to apply to Venice, an interest in the affairs, 
fortunes, and misfortunes of his neighbors, and an ac- 
quaintance with the Venetian dialect, I doubt if he will be 
able to enjoy himself in the places so cautiously opened 
to him. Even in the most cultixated society, the dialect 
is habitually spoken ; and if Italian is used, it is only in 
compliment to some foreigner present, for whose sake, 
also, topics of general interest are sometimes chosen. 

Ill 

The best society is now largely composed of the fami- 
lies of professional men, such as the advocates, the 
physicians, and the richer sort of merchants. The shop- 
keepers, master-artisans, and others, whom industry 
and thrift distinguish from the populace, seem not to 
have any social life, in the American sense. They are 
wholly devoted to affairs, and partly from choice, and 
partly from necessity, are sordid and grasping. It is 



SOCIETY 109 

their class which has to fight hardest for life in Europe, 
and they give no quarter to those above or below them. 
The shop is their sole thought and interest, and they 
never sink it. But, since they have habits of diligence, 
and, as far as they are permitted, of enterprise, they 
seem to be in great part the stuff from which a prosper- 
ous State is to be rebuilt in Venice, if ever the fallen 
edifice rise again. They have sometimes a certain inde- 
pendence of character, which a better condition of things, 
and further education, would perhaps lift into honesty ; 
though as yet they seem not to scruple to take any un- 
fair advantage, and not to know that commercial suc- 
cess can never rest permanently on a system of bad 
faith. Below this class is the populace, between which 
and the patrician order a relation something like Ro- 
man clientage existed, contributing greatly to the main- 
tenance of exclusively aristocratic power in the State. 
The greatest conspiracy (that of Marin Falier) which 
the commons ever moved against the oligarchy was re- 
vealed to one of the nobility by his plebeian creature, 
or client ; and the government rewarded by every spe- 
cies of indulgence a class in which it had extinguished 
even the desire of popular liberty. The heirs of the ser- 
vile baseness which such a system as this must create 
are not yet extinct. There is still a helplessness in many 
of the servant class, and a disposition to look for largess 
as well as wages, which are the traits naturally result- 
ing from a state of voluntary submission to others. The 
nobles, as the government, debauched the character of 
the poor by public shows and countless holidays; as 



no VENETIAN LIFE 

individuals, they taught them to depend upon patrician 
favor, and not upon their own plebeian industry, for 
support. The lesson was an evil one, hard to be un- 
learned, and it is yet to be forgotten in Venice. Certain 
traits of soft and familiar dependence give a charm to 
the populace ; but their existence makes the observer 
doubtful of a future to which the plebeians themselves 
look forward with perfect hope and confidence. It may 
be that they are right, and will really rise to the dignity 
of men, when free government shall have taught them 
that the laborer is worthy of his hire — after he has 
earned it. This has been the result, to some degree, in 
the kingdom of Italy, where the people have found that 
freedom, like happiness, means work. 

It is said that the best people in the best society of 
Venice are the advocates, an order of consequence even 
in the times of the Republic, though then shut out from 
participation in public affairs by a native government, 
as now by a foreign one. Acquaintance with several 
members of this profession impressed me with a sense 
of its liberality of thought and feeling, where all liberal 
thinking and feeling must be done by stealth, and where 
the common intelligence of the world sheds its light 
through multiplied barriers. Daniele Manin, the Presi- 
dent of the Republic of 1848, was of this class, which, by 
virtue of its learning, enlightenment, and talent, occupies 
a place in the esteem and regard of the Venetian people 
above that held by the aristocracy. The better part of 
the nobility, indeed, is merged in the professional class, 
and some of the most historic names are now preceded 



SOCIETY III 

by the learned titles of Doctor and Advocate, rather than 
the cheap dignity of Count, offered by the Austrian gov- 
ernment to all the patricians who chose to ask for it when 
Austrian rule was extended over their country. 

The physicians rank next to the advocates, and are 
usually men learned in their profession, however erro- 
neous and old-fashioned some of their theories of prac- 
tice may be. Like the advocates, they are often men of 
letters: they write for the journals, and publish little 
pamphlets on those topics of local history which it is 
so much the fashion to treat in Venice. No one makes 
a profession of authorship. The returns of an author's 
work would be too uncertain, and its restrictions and 
penalties would be too vexatious and serious ; literary 
topics are only occasionally treated by those whose main 
energies are bent in another direction. 

The doctors are very numerous, and a considerable 
number of them are Hebrews, who, even in the old jeal- 
ous times, exercised the noble art of medicine, and who 
now rank very highly among their professional brethren. 
These physicians haunt the neat apothecary shops, 
where they sit upon the benching that passes round the 
interior, read the newspapers, and discuss the politics of 
Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, with all the zest that 
characterizes their discussions in Goldoni's plays. There 
they spend their evenings and many hours of every day, 
and thither the sick send to call them, — each physician 
resorting to a particular apothecary's, and keeping his 
name inscribed on a brass plate against the wall, above 
the head of the druggist, who presides over the reun- 



112 VENETIAN LIFE 

ions of the doctors, while his apprentice pestles away at 
their prescriptions. 

In 1786 there were, what with priests, monks, and 
nuns, a multitude of persons of ecclesiastical profession 
in Venice ; and though many convents and monasteries 
were abolished by Napoleon, the priests are still very 
numerous, and some monastic establishments have been 
revived under Austrian rule. The high officers of the 
Church are, of course, well paid, but most of the priest- 
hood live miserably enough. They receive from the gov- 
ernment a daily stipend of about thirty-five soldi, and 
they celebrate mass, when they can get something to do 
in that way, for forty soldi. Unless, then, they have pri- 
vate income from their own family, or have pay for the 
education of some rich man's son or daughter, they 
must fare slenderly. 

There is much said, in and out of Venice, about their 
influence in society ; but this is greatly modified, and I 
think is chiefly exercised upon the women of the old- 
fashioned families. It is no longer usual for girls to be 
educated in convents, and most young ladies of the bet- 
ter classes, up to the age of thirteen or fourteen years, re- 
ceive their schooling in secular establishments, whither 
they go every day for study, or where they sometimes 
live as in our boarding-schools, and where they are 
taught the usual accomplishments, greater attention be- 
ing paid to French and music than to other things. I 
need hardly repeat the well-known fact that all the moral 
power of the Roman Church over the younger men is 
gone ; these seldom attend mass, and almost never go 



SOCIETY 113 

to confession, and the priests are their by-word. Their 
example, in some degree, must be much followed also 
by women ; and though women must everywhere make 
more public profession of religion than men, in order 
to retain social standing, I doubt if the priests have a 
very firm hold upon the fears or reverence of the sisters 
and wives of liberal Venetians. 

If, however, they contribute in any wise to keep down 
the people, they are themselves enslaved to their su- 
periors and to each other. No priest can leave the city 
of Venice without permission of the Patriarch. He is 
cut off as much as possible from his own kinsfolk, 
and subjected to the constant surveillance of his order. 
Obliged to maintain a respectable appearance on twenty 
cents a day ; hampered and hindered from all personal 
liberty and private friendship, and hated by the great 
mass of the people, — I hardly think the Venetian priest 
is to be envied in his life. For my own part, knowing 
these things, I was not able to cherish toward the priests 
those feelings of scornful severity which swell many 
Protestant bosoms ; and so far as I made their acquaint- 
ance, I found them kind and amiable. One ecclesiastic, 
at least, I may describe as one of the most agreeable and 
cultivated gentlemen I ever met. 

Those who fare best among the priests are the 
Jesuits, who returned from repeated banishment with 
the Austrians in this century. Their influence is very 
extended, and the confessional is their forte. Venetians 
say that with the old and the old-fashioned these crafty 
priests suggest remorse and impose penances; that 



114 VENETIAN LIFE 

with the young men and the latter-day thinkers they 
are men of the world, and pass of! pleasant sins as trifles. 
All the students of the government schools are obliged 
by law to confess twice a month, and are given printed 
certificates of confession, in blank, which the confessor 
fills up and stamps with the seal of the Church. Most 
of them go to confess at the church of the Jesuits, who 
listen to the cock-and-bull story invented by the student, 
and cultivate his friendship by an easy penance and a 
liberal tone. This ingenuous young man of course de- 
spises the confessional. He goes to confess because the 
law obliges him to do so ; but the law cannot dictate 
what he must confess. If we may believe his own wit- 
ness, he ventures as near downright burlesque as he 
dares, and (if the account he gives of the matter be true) 
puts off his confessor with some such well-known fact as 
that he has blasphemed. Of course he has blasphemed, 
blasphemy being as common as the forms of salutation 
in Venice. So the priest, who wishes him to come again, 
and to found some sort of influence over him, says,^ — 
" Oh dear, dear ! This is very bad. Blasphemy is deadly 
sin. If you must swear, swear by the heathen gods : say 
Body of Diana, instead of Body of God ; Presence of the 
Devil, instead of Blood of Mary. Then there is no harm 

done." 

IV 

The young men do not love the government or the 
Church ; and though I account for the loss of much high 
hope and generous sympathy in growth from youth to 
middle age, I cannot see how, when they have replaced 



SOCIETY 115 

their fathers, the present religious and political discon- 
tent is to be modified. The middle-aged men of Venice 
grew up in times of comparative quiet, when she did 
not so much care who ruled over her, and, negatively 
at least, they honored the Church. They may now hate 
the foreign rule, but there are many considerations of 
timidity, and many effects of education, to temper their 
hate. They may dislike the priests, but they revere the 
Church. The young men of to-day are bred in a differ- 
ent school, and all their thoughts are of opposition to 
the government and of war upon the Church, which 
they detest and ridicule. The fact that their education 
is still in the hands of the priests in some measure, does 
not render them more tractable. They have no fears to 
be wrought upon by their clerical professors, who sel- 
dom have sought to act upon their nobler qualities. 
The influence of the priesthood is again limited by the 
fact that the teachers in the free schools of the city, to 
which the poor send their children, are generally not 
priests ; and ecclesiastics are no longer so commonly 
the private tutors of the children of the rich, as they 
were when they lived with the family, and exercised a 
direct and important influence in it. Express permission 
from the pope is now necessary to the maintenance of 
a family chaplain, and the office is nearly disused. But 
in early days every noble Venetian family had its chap- 
lain, who, on the occasion of great dinners and suppers, 
remained in the kitchen, and received as one of his per- 
quisites the fragments that came back from the table. 
The Republic was extremely jealous of the political 



ii6 VENETIAN LIFE 

power of the priests, who could not hold secular office 
in its time. A curious punishment was inflicted upon 
the priest who proved false to his own vows of chastity, 
and there is a most amusing old ballad — by no means 
cleanly in its language — purporting to be the lament 
of a priest suspended in the iron cage, appointed for 
the purpose, from the belfry of the Campanile San 
Marco, and enduring the jeers and insults of the mob 
below. But in the last century, especially, the nuns and 
monks seem to have led a pleasant life. You may see 
in the old pictures of Pietro Longhi and his school how, 
at the aristocratic and fashionable convent of San Zac- 
caria, the lady nuns received their friends and acquaint- 
ances of this world in the anteroom, where the dames 
and their cavaliers flirted and drank coffee, and the 
gentlemen coquetted with the brides of heaven through 
their grated windows. 

Among the other privileges of the Church, abolished 
in Venice long ago, was that ancient right of the monks 
of St. Anthony, Abbot, by which their herds of swine 
were made free of the city. These animals wandered 
here and there, and were piously fed by devout peo- 
ple, until the year 1409, when, being found dangerous 
to children and inconvenient to everybody, they were 
made the subject of a special decree, which deprived 
them of their freedom of movement. The Republic was 
always limiting the privileges of the Church. It is known 
how, when the holy inquisition was established in its 
dominions in 1249, the State stipulated that great part 
of the process against heresy should be conducted by 



SOCIETY 117 

secular functionaries, and that the sentence should rest 
with the Doge and his councilors, — a kind of inquisi- 
tion with claws clipped and teeth filed, as one may say, 
and the only sort ever permitted in Venice. At present 
there is no absolute disfavor shown to the clergy ; but, 
as we have seen, many a pleasant island, which the 
monks of old reclaimed from the salt marshes, and 
planted with gardens and vineyards, now bears only 
the ruins of their convents, or else, converted into a for- 
tress or government depot, is all thistly with bayonets. 
Anciently, moreover, there were many little groves in 
different parts of the city, where the pleasant clergy, 
of what Mr. Ruskin would have us believe the pure 
and religious days of Venice, met and made merry so 
riotously together by night that the higher officers of 
the Church were forced to prohibit their little parties. 

An old custom of rejoicing over the installation of 
a new parish priest is still to be seen in almost primi- 
tive quaintness. The people of each parish — nobles, 
citizens, and plebeians alike — formerly elected their 
own priest, and, till the year 1576, they used to peram- 
bulate the city to the sound of drums, with banners 
flying, after an election, and proclaim the name of their 
favorite. On the day of the parrocd s induction his por- 
trait was placed over the church door, and after the 
celebration of the morning mass a breakfast was given, 
which grew to be so splendid in time that in the fif- 
teenth century a statute limited its profusion. In the 
afternoon the new parroco, preceded by a band of 
military music, visited all the streets and courts of his 



ii8 VENETIAN LIFE 

parish, and then, as now, the windows of the parish 
were decorated with brilliant tapestries, and gay-colored 
cloths and pictures. In those times, as in these, there 
was an illumination at night, with throngs of people in 
the campo of the church, and booths for traffic in cakes 
of flour and raisins, — fried in lard upon the spot, and 
sold smoking hot, with immense uproar on the part of 
the vender ; and for three days afterward the parish bells 
were sounded in concert. 

V 

The difficulty of ascertaining anything with certainty 
in Venice attends in a degree peculiarly great the effort 
to learn exactly the present influence and standing of 
the nobility as a. class. One is tempted, on observing 
the free and unembarrassed bearing of all ranks of peo- 
ple toward each other, to say that no sense of difference 
exists, — and I do not think there is ever shown, among 
Italians, either the aggressive pride or the abject mean- 
ness which sometimes marks the intercourse of people 
and nobles elsewhere in Europe ; and I have not seen 
the distinction of rich and poor made so brutally in 
Italy as sometimes in our own soi-disant democratic so- 
ciety at home. There is, indeed, that equality in the Ital- 
ian fibre which I believe fits the nation for democratic 
institutions better than any other, and which is perhaps 
partly the result of their ancient free civilization. At any 
rate, it fascinates a stranger to see people so mutually 
gentle and deferential, and must often be a matter of 
surprise to the Anglo-Saxon, in whose race, reclaimed 



SOCIETY 119 

from barbarism more recently, the native wild-beast is 
still so strong as sometimes to inform the manner. The 
uneducated Anglo-Saxon is a savage ; the Italian, though 
born to utter ignorance, poverty, and depravity, is a civ- 
ilized man. I do not say that his civilization is of a 
high order, or that the civilization of the most culti- 
vated Italian is comparable to that of the best among 
ourselves. The Italian's education, however profound, 
has left his passions undisciplined, while it has carefully 
polished his manner ; he yields lightly to temptation, he 
loses his self-control, he blasphemes habitually; his gen- 
tleness is conventional, his civilization not individual. 

The natural equality of the Italians is visible in their 
community of good looks as well as good manners. 
They have never, perhaps, that high beauty of sensi- 
tive expression which is found among Englishmen and 
Americans (preferably among the latter), but it very 
rarely happens that they are brutally ugly ; and the man 
of low rank and mean vocation has often a beauty of 
as fine sort as the man of education and refinement. 
If they changed clothes, and the poor man could be 
persuaded to wash himself, they might successfully mas- 
querade, one for another. The plebeian Italian, inspired 
by the national vanity, bears himself as proudly as the 
noble, without at all aggressing in his manner. His 
beauty, like that of the women of his class, is world-old, 
— the beauty of the pictures and the statues : the ideal 
types of loveliness are realized in Italy ; the saints and 
heroes, the madonnas and nymphs, come true to the 
stranger at the encounter with living faces. In Venice, 



I20 VENETIAN LIFE 

particularly, the carriage of the women, of whatever 
rank, is very free and noble, and the servant is some- 
times to be distinguished from the mistress only by her 
dress and by her labor-coarsened hands; certainly not 
always by her finger-nails and foul teeth, for the nail- 
brush and tooth-brush are not of universal use: the 
four-pronged fork is still imperfectly understood, and 
as a nation the Italians may be said to eat with their 
knives. 

The eflfects of the old relationship of patron and client 
are amusingly noticeable in the superior as well as the 
inferior; a rich man's dependents are perfectly free with^ 
advice and comment, and it sometimes happens that he 
likes to hear their lively talk, and at home secretly con- 
sorts with his servants. The former social differences 
between commoners and patricians (which, I think, judg- 
ing from the natural temper of the race, must have been 
greatly modified at all times by concession and excep- 
tion) may be said to have quite disappeared in point of 
fact. There is still a number of historic families, which 
are in a certain degree exclusive ; but rich parvenus 
have admission to their friendship, and commoners in 
good circumstances are permitted their acquaintance ; 
the ladies of this patrician society visit ladies of less 
rank, and receive them at their great parties, though not 
at more sacred assemblies, where they see only each 

other. 

VI 

The Venetians have a habit of saying their best families 
are in exile, but this is not meant to be taken literally. 



SOCIETY 121 

Many of the best families are yet in the city, Hving in 
retirement, or very often merged in the middle class, 
the men following professions, and leading active, useful 
lives. Of such nobles (they usually belong to the fami- 
lies which did not care to ask nobility of Austria, and are 
therefore untitled) ' the citizens are affectionately proud, 
while I have heard from them nothing but contempt 
and ridicule of the patricians who, upon a wretched 
pension or meagre government office, attempt to main- 
tain patrician distinction. Such nobles are usually Aus- 
triacanti in their politics, and behind the age in every- 
thing ; while there are other descendants of patrician 
families mingled at last with the very populace, sharing 
their ignorance and degradation, and feeling with them. 
These sometimes exercise the most menial employments : 
I knew one nobile who had been a facchino, and I heard 
of another who was a street-sweeper. Conte che non 
conta^ non conta niente^^ says the sneering Italian pro- 
verb ; and it would be little less than miraculous if a 
nobility like that of modern Venice maintained superior 
state and regard in the eyes of the quick-witted, intelli- 
gent, sarcastic commonalty. 

The few rich patricians own lands and houses, and 
as property is unsafe when revolutionary feeling is rife, 

* The only title conferred on any patrician of Venice during the Repub- 
lic was Cavaliere, and this was conferred by a legislative act in reward of 
distinguished service. The names of the nobility were written in the Golden 
Book of the Republic, and they were addressed as Illustrissimo or Eccel- 
lenza. They also signed themselves nobile^ between the Christian name and 
surname, as it is still the habit of the untitled nobility to do. 

^ A count who does n't count (money) counts for nothing. 



122 VENETIAN LIFE 

their patriotism is tempered. The weaUh amassed in 
early times by the vast and enterprising commerce of the 
country was, when not dissipated in riotous splendor, in- 
vested in real estate upon the mainland as the Repub- 
lic grew in territory, and the income of the nobles is now 
from the rents of these lands. They reside upon their 
estates during the season of the villeggiatura, which 
includes the months of September and October, when 
every one who can possibly leave the city goes into the 
country. Then the patricians betake themselves to their 
villas near Padua, Vicenza, Bassano, and Treviso, and 
people the sad-colored, weather-worn stucco hermitages, 
where the mutilated statues, swaggering above the 
gates, forlornly commemorate days when it was a far 
finer thing to be a noble than it is now. I say the villas 
look dreary and lonesome as places can be made to look 
in Italy, what with their high garden walls, their long, 
low piles of stabling, and iho, passke indecency of their 
nymphs and fauns, foolishly strutting in the attitudes of 
the past ; and it must be but a dull life that the noble 
proprietors lead there. 

It is better, no doubt, on the banks of the Brenta, 
where there are still so many villas as to form a street of 
these seats of luxury, almost the whole length of the 
canal, from Fusina to Padua. I am not certain that they 
have a right to the place which they hold in literature 
and sentiment, and yet there is something very charming 
about them, with their gardens, and chapels, and statues, 
and shaded walks. We went to see them one day early 
in October, and found them every one, when habitable. 



SOCIETY 123 

inhabited, and wearing a cheerful look, that made their 
proximity to Venice incredible. As we returned home 
after dark, we saw the ladies from the villas walking un- 
attended along the road, and giving the scene an air of 
homelike peace and trustfulness which I had not found 
before in Italy ; while the windows of the houses were 
brilliantly lighted, as if people lived in them ; whereas, 
you seldom see a light in Venetian palaces. I am not 
sure that I did not like better, however, the villas that 
were empty and ruinous, and the gardens that had run 
wild, and the statues that had lost legs and arms. Some 
of the ingenious proprietors had enterprisingly white- 
washed their statues, and there was a horrible primness 
about certain of the well-kept gardens which offended. 
Most of the houses were not large, but there was here 
and there a palace as grand as any in the city. Such 
was the great villa of the Contarini of the Lions, which 
was in every way superb, with two lions of stone guard- 
ing its portals, and a gravel walk, overarched with 
stately trees, stretching a quarter of a mile before it. 
At the moment I was walking down this aisle I met a 
clean-shaven old canonico, with red legs and red-tas- 
seled hat, and with a book under his arm, and a medi- 
tative look, whom I here thank for being so venerably 
picturesque. The palace itself was shut up, and I wish 
I had known, when I saw it, that it had a ghostly under- 
ground passage from its cellar to the chapel, — wherein, 
when you get halfway, your light goes out, and you 
consequently never reach the chapel. 

This is at Mira ; but the greatest of all the villas 



124 VENETIAN LIFE 

is the magnificent country-seat of the family Pisani at 
Str^, which now, with scarcely any addition to its splen- 
dor, serves for the residence of the abdicated Emperor 
of Austria. There is such pride in the .vastness of 
this edifice and its gardens as impresses you with the 
material greatness which found expression in it, and 
never raises a regret that it has utterly passed away. 
You wander around through the aisles of trim-cut lime- 
trees, bullied and overborne by the insolent statues, and 
expect at every turn to come upon intriguing spectres 
in bag-wigs, immense hoops and patches. The noble 
owner of such a villa ascended the Brenta at the sea- 
son of the villeggiatura in his great gilded barge, 
all carven outside with the dumpling loves and loose 
nymphs of the period, with fruits, and flowers, and what 
not; and within, luxuriously cushioned and furnished, 
and stocked with good things for pleasure-making 
in the gross old fashion.' The Illustrissimo of that 
day outspent princes; and his agent, while he harried 
the tenants to supply his master's demands, plundered 
Illustrissimo frightfully. Illustrissimo never looked at 
accounts. He said to his steward, " Caro veccio, fe vu. 
Mi remeto a quel che fe vuP (" Old fellow, you attend 
to it. I shall be satisfied with what you do.") So Illus- 
trissimo, when he died, died poor and left his lordly 
debts and vices to his sons. 

In Venice, the noble still lives sometimes in his an- 
cestral palace, dimly occupying the halls where his fore- 
fathers flourished in so much splendor. I can conceive, 

* Mutinelli, Gli Ultimi Cinquanf Anni delta Repubblica di Venezia. 



SOCIETY 125 

indeed, of no state of things more flattering to human 
pride than that which surrounded the patrician of the 
old aristocratic Republic. The house in which he dwelt 
was the palace of a king, in luxury of appointment 
and magnificence of proportion. Throngs of servants 
that ministered to his state peopled its vast extent; 
and the gondolas that carried his grandeur abroad were 
moored in little fleets to the piles that rose before his 
palace, painted with the family arms and colors. The 
palace itself stood usually on the Grand Canal, and rose 
sheer from the water ; the architecture was as costly in its 
ornament as Gothic fancy, or Renaissance luxury, could 
make it ; and when the palace front was not of sculp- 
tured marble, the painter's pencil filled it with the delight 
of color. The mainland noble's house was half a for- 
tress, and formed his stronghold in times of popular 
tumult or family fray ; but at Venice the strong arm of 
St. Mark suppressed all turbulence in a city secure from 
foreign war; and the peaceful arts rejoiced in undis- 
turbed possession of the palaces, which rose in deli- 
cate and fantastic beauty, and mirrored in the brine a 
dream of sea-deep strangeness and richness. You see 
much of the beauty yet, but the pride and opulence 
which called it into being are gone forever. 

Most palaces, whether of the Gothic or classicistic 
period, have the same internal arrangement of halls 
and chambers, and are commonly built of two lofty and 
two low stories. On the water level is a hall running 
back from the gate to a bit of garden at the other side 
of the palace ; and on either hand in this hall, which in 



126 VENETIAN LIFE 

old times was hung with the family trophies of the chase 
and war, are the porter's lodge and gondoliers' rooms. 
On the first and second stories are the family apart- 
ments, opening on either side from great halls, of the 
same extent as that below, but with loftier roofs, of 
heavy rafters gilded or painted. The fourth floor is of 
the same arrangement, but has a lower roof, and was 
devoted to the better class of servants. Of the two sto- 
ries used by the family, the third is the loftier and airier, 
and was occupied in summer ; the second was the win- 
ter apartment, the rooms opening in suites. 

VII 

We have seen something of the ceremonies, public 
and private, which gave peculiar gayety and brilliance 
to the life of the Venetians of former days ; but in his 
political character the noble had yet greater conse- 
quence. He was part of the proudest, strongest, and 
securest system of his time. He was a king with the 
fellowship of kings, flattered with the equality of an 
aristocracy which was master of itself, and of its nom- 
inal head. During the earlier times it was his ofifice to 
go daily to Rialto and instruct the people in their politi- 
cal rights and duties for four hours ; and even when the 
duties became everything and the rights nothing (after 
the Serrar del Consiglio), the friendly habit of daily in- 
tercourse between patricians and citizens was still kept 
up at the same place. Once each week, and on every 
holiday, the noble took his seat in the Grand Council 
(the most august assembly in the world), or the Ten, or 



.^^:i^i 



SOCIETY 127 

the Three, according to his office in the State, — hold- 
ing his place in the Council by right of birth, and in the 
other bodies by election of his peers. 

Although the patricians were kept as one family apart 
from the people, and jealously guarded in their aristo- 
cratic purity by the State, they were only equals of the 
poorest before the laws of their own creation, and their 
condescension to the people was frequent and great. 
Indeed, the Venetians of all classes are social creatures, 
loving talk and gossip, and these constant habits of in- 
tercourse must have done much to produce that equality 
of manner now observable in them. Their amusements 
were for a long time the same, the nobles taking part 
in the public holidays, and in the popular exercises of 
rowing and swimming. In the earlier times, hunting in 
the lagoons was a favorite diversion ; but as the decay 
of the Republic advanced, and the patrician blossomed 
into the fine gentleman of the last century, these sports 
were relinquished, and everything was voted vulgar but 
masking in carnival, dancing and gaming at Ridotto, 
and intriguing everywhere. 

The accounts which Venetian writers give of Re- 
publican society in the eighteenth century form a 
chronique scandaleuse which need not be minutely 
copied here. Much may be learned of Venetian man- 
ners of this time from the comedies of Goldoni ; the 
faithlessness of society may be argued from the fact 
that in these plays, which contain nothing salacious or 
indecent, there is scarcely a character of any rank who 
scruples to tell lies ; and the truth is not to be found in 



128 VENETIAN LIFE 

works intended to school the public in virtue. The in- 
genious old playwright's memoirs are full of gossip con- 
cerning that poor old Venice which is now no more ; and 
the worthy autobiographer, Casanova, also gives much 
information about things that had best not be known. 

VIII 

As the Republic drew near its fall, in 1797, there was 
little left in its dominant class worth saving, if we may 
believe the testimony of Venetians which Mutinelli 
brings to bear upon the point in his " Annali Urbani,'* 
and his " History of the Last Fifty Years of the Re- 
public." Long prosperity and prodigious opulence had 
done their worst ; the patricians, and the lowest orders 
of the people, their creatures and dependents, were 
thoroughly corrupt ; while the men of professions be- 
gan to assume that station which they now hold. The 
days of a fashionable patrician of those times began 
al a little before sunset, and ended with the following 
dawn. Rising from his bed, he dressed himself in dainty 
linen, and placed himself in the hands of the hair-dresser 
to be combed, oiled, perfumed, and powdered ; and then 
he sallied forth for a stroll through the Merceria, where 
this excellent husband and father made '^tasteful pur- 
chases to be carried to the lady he served. At dinner, 
which he took about seven or eight, his board was cov- 
ered with the most tempting viands, and surrounded 
by needy parasites, who detailed the spicy scandals of 
the day in payment of their dinner, while the children 
of the host were confided to the care of the corrupt and 



SOCIETY 129 

negligent servants. After dinner, the father went to the 
theatre, or to the casino y and spent the night over cards 
and wine, in the society of dissolute women ; and re- 
newed on the morrow the routine of his useful existence. 
The education of the children of the man of fashion was 
confided to a priest, who lived in his family, and called 
himself an abbate, after the mode of the abbes of French 
society ; he had winning manners with the ladies, in- 
dulgent habits with his pupils, and dressed his elegant 
person in silks of Lyons and English broadcloths. In 
the pleasant old days he flitted from palace to villa, din- 
ing and supping, and flattering the ladies, and tapping 
the lid of his jeweled snuff-box in all fashionable com- 
panies. He was the cadet of a patrician family (when 
not the ambitious son of a low family), with a polite 
taste for idleness and intrigue, for whom no secular 
sinecure could be found in the State, and who obliged 
the Church by accepting orders. Whether in the palace 
on the Grand Canal, or the villa on the Brenta, he was 
surely the most agreeable person to be met, with his 
rich suit of black, and his smug, clean-shaven face, and 
his jeweled hands, and his sweet, seducing manners. 
Alas I the world is changed I The priests whom you see 
playing tre-sette now at the conversazioni are altogether 
different men, and the delightful abbate is as much 
out of fashion as the bag-wig or the queue. When in 
fashion he loved the theatre, and often showed himself 
there at the side of his noble patron's wife. In that time 
the theatre was so prized by the Church that a popu- 
lar preacher thought it becoming to declare from his 



I30 VENETIAN LIFE 

pulpit that to compose well his hearers should study the 
comedies of Goldoni, — and his hearers were the pos- 
terity of that devout old aristocracy which never under- 
took a journey without first receiving the holy sacra- 
ment ; which had built the churches and endowed them 
from private wealth I 

Ignorance, as well as vice, was the mode in those ele- 
gant days, and it is related that a charming lady of good 
society once addressed a foreign savant at her conver- 
sazione, and begged him to favor the company with a 
little music, because, having heard that he was virtuous, 
she had no other association with the word than its 
technical use in Italy to indicate a professional singer 
as a virtuoso. These, and many other scandalous stories, 
the Venetian writers recount of the last days of their 
Republic, and the picture they produce is one of the 
most shameless ignorance, the most polite corruption, 
the most unblushing baseness. I have no doubt that 
the picture is full of national exaggeration. Indeed, the 
method of Mutinelli (who I believe intends to tell the 
truth) in writing social history is altogether too credu- 
lous and incautious. It is well enough to study contem- 
porary comedy for light upon past society, but satirical 
ballads and lampoons, and scurrilous letters, cannot be 
accepted as historical' authority. Still there is no ques- 
tion but Venice was very corrupt. As you read of her 
people in the last century, one by one the ideas of family 
faith and domestic purity fade away ; one by one the 
beliefs in public virtue are dissipated ; until at last 
you are glad to fly the study, close the filthy pages, and 



SOCIETY 131 

take refuge in doubt of the writers, who declare that 
they must needs dishonor Venice with facts, since her 
children have dishonored her in their lives. " Such as 
we see them," they say, ''were the patricians; such the 
people of Venice, after the middle of the eighteenth 
century. The Venetians might be considered as extin- 
guished ; the marvelous city, the pomp only of the 
Venetians, existed." 

Shall we believe this? Let each choose for himself. 
At that very time the taste and wealth of a Venetian 
noble fostered the genius of Canova ; and then, when 
their captains starved the ragged soldiers of the Repub- 
lic to feed their own idleness and vice, when the sol- 
diers dismantled her forts to sell the guns to the Turk, 
when her sailors rioted on shore and her ships rotted 
in her ports, she had still military virtue enough to pro- 
duce that Emo, who beat back the Algerine corsairs 
from the commerce of Christendom, and attacked them 
in their stronghold, as of old her galleys beat back the 
Turks. But there was not the virtue in her statesmen to 
respond to this greatness in the hero. One of their last 
public acts was to break his heart with insult, and to 
crave peace of the pirates whom he had cowed. It re- 
mained for the helpless Doge and the abject patricians, 
terrified at Napoleon's threat of war, to declare the Re- 
public at an end, and San Marco was no more. 

I love Republics too well to lament the fall of Venice. 
And yet, Pax tibiy Marce I If I have been slow to praise, 
I shall not hasten to condemn, a whole nation. Indeed, 
so much occurs to me toqualify with contrary sense 



132 VENETIAN LIFE 

what I have written concerning Venice, that I wonder 
if, after all, I have not been treating throughout less of 
the rule than of the exception. It is a doubt which must 
force itself upon every fair and temperate man who at- 
tempts to describe another people's life and character ; 
and I confess that it troubles me so sorely now, at the 
end of my work, that I would fain pray the gentle reader 
to believe much more good and much less evil of the 
Venetians than I have said. I am glad that it remains 
for me to express a faith and hope in them for the future, 
founded upon their present political feeling, which, how- 
ever tainted with self-interest in the case of many, is no 
doubt with the great majority a high and true feeling 
of patriotism. It is impossible to believe that a people 
which can maintain the stern and unyielding attitude 
now maintained by the Venetians toward an alien gov- 
ernment disposed to make them any concession short 
of freedom, in order to win them into voluntary submis- 
sion, can be wanting in the great qualities which distin- 
guish living peoples from those passed hopelessly into 
history and sentiment. In truth, glancing back over the 
whole career of the nation, I can discern in it nothing so 
admirable, so dignified, so steadfastly brave, as its pre- 
sent sacrifice of all that makes life easy and joyous, to 
the attainment of a good which shall make life noble. 

The Venetians desire now, and first of all things. Lib- 
erty, knowing that in slavery men can learn no virtues ; 
and I think them fit, with all their errors and defects, to 
be free now, because men are never fit to be slaves. 



XXII. LAST YEAR IN VENICE 

MYSTICAL MISGIVINGS — PALAZZO GIUSTINIANI DEI 
VESCOVI AND HOW THE GIUSTINIANI FAMILY WAS 
SAVED FROM EXTINCTION — CA' FOSCARI NEXT DOOR 
— OUR APARTMENT — HOW WE PASSED THE TIME — 
THE SUBTLE INFLUENCE OF VENICE — THE LANDLORD, 
HIS NEXT FRIEND AND THE DOMESTICS — STIRRING 
INCIDENT — THOROUGH ACQUAINTANCE WITH VEN- 
ICE — THREE DISTINCTIVE PALACES — LAST DAYS OF 
OUR LAST YEAR. 

THE last of four years which it was our fortune 
to live in the city of Venice was passed under 
the roof of one of her most beautiful and 
memorable palaces, namely, the Palazzo Giustiniani, 
whither we went, as has been told in an earlier chap- 
ter of this book, to escape the encroaching nepotism 
of Giovanna, the flower of serving-women. The expe- 
rience now, in Cambridge, Mass. (seven years since the 
foregoing chapters were written), refuses to consort 
with ordinary remembrances, and has such a fantastic 
preference for the company of rather vivid and circum- 
stantial dreams, that it is with no very strong hope of 
making it seem real that I shall venture to speak of it 

I 

The Giustiniani were a family of patricians very famous 
during the times of a Republic that gave so many splen- 



134 VENETIAN LIFE 

did names to history, and the race was preserved to the 
honor and service of Saint Mark by one of the most 
romantic facts of his annals. During a war with the 
Greek Emperor in the twelfth century every known 
Giustiniani was slain, and the heroic strain seemed lost 
forever. But the State that mourned them bethought 
itself of a half-forgotten monk of their house, who was 
wasting his life in the Convent of San Nicolo ; he was 
drawn forth from this seclusion, and, the permission 
of Rome being won, he was married to the daughter of 
the reigning doge. From them descended the Giusti- 
niani of after times, who still exist ; indeed, in the year 
1865 there came one day a gentleman of the family, 
and tried to buy from our landlord that part of the palace 
which we so humbly and insufficiently inhabited. It is 
said that as the unfrocked friar and his wife declined in 
life they separated, and, as if in doubt of what had 
been done for the State through them, retired each into 
a convent, Giustiniani going back to San Nicold, and 
dying at last to the murmur of the Adriatic waves along 
the Lido's sands. 

Next after this Giustiniani I like best to think of that 
latest hero of the family, who had the sad fortune to 
live when the ancient Republic fell at a threat of Napo- 
leon, and who alone among her nobles had the courage 
to meet with a manly spirit the insolent menaces of the 
conqueror. The Giustiniani governed Treviso for the 
Senate ; he refused, when Napoleon ordered him from 
his presence, to quit Treviso without the command of 
the Senate ; he flung back the taunts of bad faith cast 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 135 

upon the Venetians ; and when Napoleon changed his 
tone from that of disdain to one of compliment, and 
promised that in the general disaster he was preparing 
for Venice Giustiniani should be spared, the latter gen- 
erously replied that he had been a friend of the French 
only because the Senate was so ; as to the immunity 
offered, all was lost to him in the loss of his country, 
and he should blush for his wealth if it remained intact 
amidst the ruin of his countrymen. 

The family had grown in riches and renown from age 
to age, and, some four centuries after the marriage of the 
monk, they reared the three beautiful Gothic palaces, 
in the noblest site on the Grand Canal, whence on one 
hand you can look down to the Rialto Bridge, and 
on the other far up towards the church of the Salute 
and the Basin of Saint Mark. The architects were those 
Buoni, father and son, who did some of the most beau- 
tiful work on the Ducal Palace, and who wrought in an 
equal inspiration upon these homes of the Giustiniani, 
building the delicate Gothic arches of the windows, 
with their slender columns and their graceful balconies, 
and crowning all with the airy battlements. 

II 

The largest of the three palaces became later the pro- 
perty of the Foscari family, and here dwelt with his 
father that unhappy Jacopo Foscari, who after thrice 
suffering torture by the State for a murder he never did, 
at last died in exile ; hither came the old Doge Foscari, 
who had consented to this cruel error of the State, and 



136 VENETIAN LIFE 

who after a life spent in its service was deposed and 
disgraced before his death; and hither, when he lay 
dead, came remorseful Venice, and claimed for sumptu- 
ous obsequies the dust which his widow yielded with 
bitter reproaches. Here the family faded away genera- 
tion by generation, till (according to the tale told us) 
early in this century, when the ultimate male survivor 
of the line had died, under a false name, in London, 
where he had been some sort of obscure actor, there 
were but two old maiden sisters left, who, lapsing into 
imbecility, were shown to strangers by the rascal ser- 
vants as the last of the Foscari ; and here in our time 
was quartered a regiment of Austrian troops, whose 
neatly pipe-clayed belts decorated the balconies on 
which the princely ladies of the house had rested their 
jeweled arms in other days. 

The Foscari added a story to the palace to distin- 
guish it from the two other Giustiniani palaces, but 
these remain to the present day as they were originally 
planned. That in which we lived was called Palazzo 
Giustiniani of the Bishops, because one of the family 
was the first Patriarch of Venice. After his death he was 
made a saint by the Pope ; and it is related that he was 
not only a very pious, but a very good man. In his last 
hours he admitted his beloved people to his chamber, 
where he meekly lay upon a pallet of straw, and at the 
moment he expired, two monks, in the solitude of their 
cloister, heard an angelical harmony in the air : the 
clergy performed his obsequies, not in black, funereal 
robes, but in white raiment, crowned with laurel, and 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 137 

bearing gilded torches ; and although the Patriarch had 
died of a malignant fever, his body was miraculously 
preserved incorrupt during the sixty-five days that the 
obsequies lasted. The other branch of the family was 
called the Giustiniani of the Jewels, from the splendor 
of their dress ; but neither palace now shelters any of 
their magnificent race. The edifice on our right was 
exclusively occupied by a noble Viennese lady, who, as 
we heard, — vaguely, in the right Venetian fashion, — 
had been a ballet-dancer in her youth, and who now in 
her matronly days dwelt apart from her husband, the 
Russian count, and had gondoliers in blue silk, and the 
finest gondola on the Grand Canal, but was a plump, 
florid lady, long past beauty, even as we saw her from 
our balcony. 

Our own palace — as we absurdly grew to call it — 
was owned and inhabited in a manner much more pro- 
per to modern Venice, the proprietorship being about 
equally divided between our own landlord and a well- 
known Venetian painter, son of a painter still more 
famous. This artist was a very courteous old gentleman, 
who went with Italian and clock-like regularity every 
evening in summer to a certain cafe, where he seemed 
to make it a point of conscience to sip one sherbet and 
to read the "Journal des Debats." In his coming and 
going we met him so often that we became friends, 
and he asked us many times to visit him, and see his 
father's pictures, and some famous frescoes with which 
his part of the palace was adorned. It was a characteris- 
tic trait of our life, that though we constantly meant to 



138 VENETIAN LIFE 

avail ourselves of this kindness, we never did so. But 
we continued in the enjoyment of the beautiful garden, 
which this gentleman owned at the rear of the palace 
and on which our chamber windows looked. It was full 
of oleanders and roses, and other bright and odorous 
blooms, which we could enjoy perfectly well without 
knowing their names ; and I could hardly say whether 
the garden was more charming when it was in its sum- 
mer glory, or when, on some rare winter day, a breath 
from the mountains had clothed its tender boughs and 
sprays with a light and evanescent flowering of snow. At 
any season the lofty palace walls rose over it, and shut it 
in a pensive seclusion which was loved by the old mother 
of the painter and by his elderly maiden sister. These 
often walked on its moss-grown paths, silent as the roses 
and oleanders to which one could have fancied the blos- 
som of their youth had flown ; and sometimes there 
came to them there grave, black-gowned priests — for 
the painter's was a devout family — and talked with 
them in tones almost as tranquil as the silence, save 
when one of the ecclesiastics placidly took snuff — it is 
a dogma of the Church for priests to take snuff in Italy 
— and thereafter, upon a prolonged search for his hand- 
kerchief, blew a resounding nose. So far as we knew, 
the garden walls circumscribed the whole life of these 
ladies ; and I am afraid that such topics of this world as 
they touched upon with their priests must have been 
deplorably small. 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 139 

III 

Their kinsman owned part of the story under us, and 
both of the stories above us ; he had the advantage 
of the garden over our landlord ; but he had not so 
grand a gondola gate as we, and in some other respects 
I incline to think that our part of the edifice was the 
finer. It is certain that no mention is made of any such 
beautiful hall in the property of the painter as is noted 
in that of our landlord, by the historian of a ** Hundred 
Palaces of Venice," — a work for which I subscribed, 
and then for my merit was honored by a visit from the 
author, who read aloud to me in a deep and sonorous 
voice the annals of our temporary home. This hall occu- 
pied half the space of the whole floor ; but it was alto- 
gether surrounded by rooms of various shapes and sizes, 
except upon one side of its length, where it gave, through 
Gothic windows of vari-colored glass, upon a small court 
below, — a green-mouldy little court, further dampened 
by a cistern, which had the usual curb of a single carven 
block of marble. The roof of this stately sala was trav- 
ersed by a long series of painted rafters, which in the 
halls of nearly all Venetian palaces are left exposed, and 
painted or carved and gilded. A suite of stately rooms 
closed the hall from the Grand Canal, and one of these 
formed our parlor ; on the side opposite the Gothic 
windows was a vast aristocratic kitchen, which, with its 
rows of shining coppers, its great chimney-place well 
advanced toward the middle of the floor, and its tall 
gloomy windows, still affects my imagination as one of 



I40 VENETIAN LIFE 

the most patrician rooms which I ever saw ; at the back 
of the hall were those chambers of ours overlooking the 
garden of which I have already spoken, and another 
kitchen, less noble than the first, but still sufficiently 
grandiose to make most New World kitchens seem very 
meekly minute and unimpressive. Between the two 
kitchens was another court, with another cistern, from 
which the painter's family drew water with a bucket on 
a long rope, which, when let down from the fourth 
story, appeared to be dropped from the clouds, and de- 
scended with a noise little less alarming than thunder. 

Altogether the most surprising object in the great 
sala was a sewing-machine, and we should have been 
inconsolably outraged by its presence there, amid so 
much that was merely venerable and beautiful, but for 
the fact that it was in a state of harmonious and hope- 
less disrepair, and, from its general contrivance, gave us 
the idea that it had never been of any use. It was, in 
fact, kept as a sort of curiosity by the landlord, who ex- 
hibited it to the admiration of his Venetian friends. 

The reader will doubtless have imagined, from what 
I have been saying, that the Palazzo Giustiniani had 
not all that machinery which we know in our houses 
here as modern improvements. It had nothing of the 
kind, and life there was, as in most houses in Italy, a 
kind of permanent camping out. When I remember 
the small amount of carpeting, of furniture, and of up- 
holstery we enjoyed, it appears to me pathetic ; and 
yet, I am not sure that it was not the wisest way to 
live. I know that we had compensation in things not 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 141 

purchasable here for money. If the furniture of the 
principal bedroom was somewhat scanty, its dimensions 
were unstinted : the ceiling was fifteen feet high, and 
was divided into rich and heavy panels, adorned each 
with a mighty rosette of carved and gilded wood, two 
feet across. The parlor had not its original decorations 
in our time, but it had once had so noble a carved 
ceiling that it was found worth while to take it down 
and sell it into England ; and it still had two grand 
Venetian mirrors, a vast and very good painting of 
a miracle of St. Anthony, and imitation-antique tables 
and armchairs. The last were frolicked all over with 
carven nymphs and cupids ; but they were of such frail 
construction that they were not meant to be sat in, 
much less to be removed from the wall against which 
they stood ; and more than one of our American visit- 
ors was dismayed at having these proud articles of fur- 
niture go to pieces upon the attempt to use them like 
mere armchairs of ordinary life. Scarcely less impres- 
sive or useless than these was a monumental plaster- 
stove, surmounted by a bust of ^sculapius ; when this 
was broken by accident, we cheaply repaired the loss 
with a bust of Homer (the dealer in the next campo be- 
ing out of ^sculapiuses) which no one could have told 
from the bust it replaced ; and this and the other artis- 
tic glories of the room made us quite forget all possible 
blemishes and defects. And will the reader mention any 
house with modern improvements in America which 
has also windows, with pointed arches of marble, open- 
ing upon balconies that overhang the Grand Canal ? 



142 VENETIAN LIFE 

' For our new apartment, which consisted of six rooms, 
furnished with every article necessary for Venetian 
housekeeping, we paid one dollar a day, which in 
the innocence of our hearts we thought rather dear, 
though we were somewhat consoled by reflecting that 
this extravagant outlay secured us the finest position 
on the Grand Canal. We did not mean to keep house 
as we had in Casa Falier, and perhaps a sketch of our 
easier menage may not be out of place. Breakfast was 
prepared in the house, for in that blessed climate all 
you care for in the morning is a cup of coffee, with 
a little bread and butter, a musk-melon, and some clus- 
ters of white grapes, more or less. Then we had our 
dinners sent in warm from a cook's who had learned 
his noble art in France ; he furnished a dinner of five 
courses for three persons at a cost of about eighty 
cents ; and they were dinners so happily conceived 
and so justly executed, that I cannot accuse myself of 
an excess of sentiment when I confess that I sigh for 
them to this day. Then as for our immaterial supper, 
we always took that at the Caffe Florian in the Piazza 
of Saint Mark, where we drank a cup of black coffee 
and ate an ice, while all the world promenaded by, 
and the Austrian bands made heavenly music. 

IV 

Those bands no longer play in Venice, and I believe 
that they are not the only charm which she has lost 
in exchanging Austrian servitude for Italian freedom ; 
though I should be sorry to think that freedom was 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 143 

not worth all other charms. The poor Venetians used 
to be very rigorous (as I have elsewhere related), about 
the music of their oppressors, and would not come into 
the Piazza until it had ceased and the Austrian pro- 
menaders had disappeared, when they sat down at 
Florian's, and listened to such bands of strolling singers 
and minstrels as chose to give them a concord of sweet 
sounds without foreign admixture. We, in our neutral- 
ity, were wont to sit out both entertainments, and then 
go home well toward midnight, through the sleepy little 
streets, and over the bridges that spanned the narrow 
canals, dreaming in the shadows of the palaces. 

We moved with half-conscious steps till we came to 
the silver expanse of the Grand Canal, where, at the 
ferry, darkled a little brood of black gondolas, into 
one of which we got, and were rowed noiselessly to the 
thither side, where we took our way toward the land- 
gate of our palace through the narrow streets of the 
parish of San Barnaba, and the campo before the ugly 
fagade of the church ; or else we were rowed directly to 
the water-gate, where we got out on the steps worn by 
the feet of the Giustiniani of old, and wandered upward 
through the darkness of the stairway, which gave them 
a far different welcome of servants and lights when they 
returned from an evening's pleasure in the Piazza. It 
seemed scarcely just ; but then those Giustiniani were 
dead, and we were alive, and that was one advantage ; 
and, besides, the loneliness and desolation of the palace 
had a peculiar charm, and were at any rate cheaper than 
its former splendor could have been. I am afraid that 



144 VENETIAN LIFE 

people who live abroad in the palaces of extinct nobles 
do not keep this important fact sufficiently in mind ; and 
as the Palazzo Giustiniani is still let in furnished lodg- 
ings, and it is quite possible that some of my readers 
may be going to spend next summer in it, I venture to 
remind them that if they have to draw somewhat upon 
their fancy for patrician accommodations there, it will 
cost them far less in money than it did the original pro- 
prietors, who contributed to our selfish pleasure by the 
very thought of their romantic absence and picturesque 
decline. 

Here I am reminded of another pleasure of modem 
dwellers in Venetian palaces, which could hardly have 
been indulged by the patricians of old, and which is 
hardly imaginable by people of this day, whose front 
doors open upon dry land : I mean to say the privilege 
of sea-bathing from one's own threshold. From the 
beginning of June till far into September all the canals 
of Venice are populated by the amphibious boys, who 
clamor about in the brine, or poise themselves for a 
leap from the tops of bridges, or show their fine, statu- 
esque figures, bronzed by the ardent sun, against the 
fagades of empty palaces, where they hover among the 
marble sculptures, and meditate a headlong plunge. It 
is only the Venetian ladies, in fact, who do not share 
this healthful amusement. Fathers of families, like so 
many plump, domestic drakes, lead forth their aquatic 
broods, teaching the little ones to swim by the aid of 
various floats, and delighting in the gambols of the 
larger ducklings. When the tide comes in fresh and 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 145 

strong from the sea the water in the Grand Canal is 
pure, if not refreshing ; and at these times it is a singu- 
lar pleasure to leap from one's doorstep into the swift 
current, and spend a half hour, very informally, among 
one's neighbors there. The Venetian bathing-dress is 
a mere sketch of the pantaloons of ordinary life ; and 
when I used to stand upon our balcony, and see some 
bearded head ducking !me a polite salutation from a 
pair of broad, brown shoulders that showed above the 
water, I was not always able to recognize my acquaint- 
ance, deprived of his factitious identity of clothes. But 
I always knew a certain stately consul-general by a vast 
expanse of baldness upon the top of his head ; and it 
must be owned, I think, that this form of social assembly 
was, with all its disadvantages, a novel and vivacious 
spectacle. The Venetian ladies, when they bathed, went 
to the Lido, or else to the bath-houses in front of the 
Ducal Palace, where they saturated themselves a good 
part of the day, and drank coffee, and, possibly, gossiped. 

V 

I THINK that our balconies at Palazzo Giustiniani were 
even better places to see the life of the Grand Canal 
from than the balcony of Casa Falier, which we had 
just left. Here at least we had a greater stretch of the 
Canal, looking, as we could, up either side of its angle. 
Here, too, we had more gondola stations in sight, and 
as we were nearer the Rialto, there was more pictur- 
esque passing of the market-boats. But if we saw more 
of this life, we did not see it in greater variety, for I 



146 VENETIAN LIFE 

think we had already exhausted this. There was move- 
ment all night long. If I woke at three or four o'clock, 
and offered myself the novel spectacle of the Canal at 
that hour, I saw the heavy-laden barges go by to the 
Rialto, with now and then also a good-sized coasting 
schooner making lazily for the lagoons, with its ruddy 
fire already kindled for cooking the morning's meal, and 
looking very enviably cosy. After our own breakfast we 
began to watch for the gondolas of the tourists of differ- 
ent nations, whom we came to distinguish at a glance. 
Then the boats of the various artisans went by, the 
carpenter^s, the mason's, the plasterer's, with those that 
sold fuel, and vegetables, and fruit, and fish, to any 
household that arrested them. From noon till three or 
four o'clock the Canal was comparatively deserted ; but 
before twilight it was thronged again by people going 
out in their open gondolas to take the air after the 
day's fervor. After nightfall they ceased, till only at 
long intervals a solitary lamp, stealing over the dark 
surface, gave token of the movement of some gondola 
bent upon an errand that could not fail to seem mys- 
terious or fail to be matter of fact. We never wearied 
of this oft-repeated variety, nor of our balcony in any 
way ; and when the moon shone in through the lovely 
arched window and sketched its exquisite outline on the 
floor, we were as happy as moonshine could make us. 

VI 

Were we otherwise content ? As concerns Venice, it is 
very hard to say, and I do not know that I shall ever be 






^■■, 







'ifW5 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 147 

able to say with certainty. For all the entertainment it 
afforded us, it was a very lonely life, and we felt the 
sadness of the city in many fine and not instantly 
recognizable ways. Englishmen who lived there bade 
us beware of spending the whole year in Venice, which 
they declared apt to result in a morbid depression of 
the spirits. I believe they attributed this to the air of the 
place, but I think it was more than half owing to her 
mood, to her old, ghostly, aimless life. She was, indeed, 
a phantom of the past, haunting our modern world, — 
serene, inexpressibly beautiful, yet inscrutably and un- 
speakably sad. Remembering the charm that was in 
her, we often sigh for the renewal of our own vague 
life there, — a shadow within the shadow ; but remem- 
bering also her deep melancholy, an involuntary shiver 
creeps over us, and we are glad not to be there. Per- 
haps some who have spent a summer day or a summer 
week in Venice will not recognize this feeling ; but if 
you will remain there, not four years as we did, but a 
year or six months even, it will ever afterwards be only 
too plain. All changes, all events, were affected by the 
inevitable local melancholy ; the day was as pensive 
amidst that populous silence as the night ; the winter not 
more pathetic than the long, tranquil, lovely summer. 
We rarely sentimentalized consciously, and still more 
seldom openly, the present state of Venice as contrasted 
with her past glory. I am glad to say that we despised 
the conventional poetastery about her ; but I believe that 
we had so far lived into sympathy with her, that, whether 
we realized it or not, we took the tone of her dejection, 



148 VENETIAN LIFE 

and assumed a part of the common experience of loss 

and of hopelessness. History, if you live where it was 

created, is a far subtler influence than you suspect ; and 

I would not say how much Venetian history, amidst the 

monuments of her glory and the witnesses of her fall, 

had to do in secret and tacit ways with the prevailing 

sentiment of existence, which I now distinctly recognize 

to have been a melancholy one. No doubt this sentiment 

was deepened by every freshly added association with 

memorable places ; and each fact, each great name and 

career, each strange tradition as it rose out of the past 

for us and shed its pale lustre upon the present, touched 

us with a pathos which we could neither trace nor 

analyze. 

VII 

I DO not know how much the modern Venetians had 
to do with this impression, but something I have no 
question. They were then under Austrian rule ; and in 
spite of much that was puerile and theatrical in it, there 
was something very affecting in their attitude of what 
may best be described as passive defiance. This alone 
made them heroic, but it also made them tedious. They 
rarely talked of anything but politics ; and as I have 
elsewhere said, they were very jealous to have every 
one declare himself of their opinion. Hemmed in by 
this jealousy on one side, and by a heavy and rebellious 
sense of the wrongful presence of the Austrian troops 
and the Austrian spies on the other, we forever felt dimly 
constrained by something, we could not say precisely 
what, and we only knew what, when we went sometimes 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 149 

on a journey into free Italy, and threw off the irksome 
caution we had maintained both as to patriotic and 
alien tyrants. This political misery circumscribed our 
acquaintance very much, and reduced the circle of our 
friendship to three or four families, who were content 
to know our sympathies without exacting constant ex- 
pression of them. So we learned to depend mainly upon 
passing Americans for our society; we hailed with 
rapture the arrival of a gondola distinguished by the 
easy hats of our countrymen and the pretty faces and 
pretty dresses of our countrywomen. It was in the days 
of our war ; and talking together over its events, we 
felt a brotherhood with every other American. 

Of course, in these circumstances, we made thorough 
acquaintance with the people about us in the palace. 
The landlord had come somehow into a profitable 
knowledge of Anglo-Saxon foibles and susceptibilities ; 
but his lodgings were charming, and I recognize the 
principle that it is not for literature to make its prey of 
any possibly conscious object. For this reason, I am 
likewise mostly silent concerning a certain attache of 
the palace, the right-hand man and intimate associate 
of the landlord. He was the descendant of one of the 
most ancient and noble families of Italy, — a family of 
popes and cardinals, of princes and ministers, which in 
him was diminished and tarnished in an almost inex- 
plicable degree. He was not at all worldly-wise, but he 
was a man of great learning, and of a capacity for ac- 
quiring knowledge that I have never seen surpassed. 
He possessed, I think, not many shirts on earth ; but 



I50 VENETIAN LIFE 

he spoke three or four languages, and wrote very pretty 
sonnets in Italian and German. He was one of the 
friendliest and willingest souls living, and as generous 
as utter destitution can make a man; yet he had a 
proper spirit, and valued himself upon his name. Some- 
times he brought his great-grandfather to the palace ; 
a brisk old gentleman in his nineties, who had seen the 
fall of the Republic and three other revolutions in Ven- 
ice, but had contrived to keep a government pension 
through all, and now smiled with unabated cheerful- 
ness upon a world which he seemed likely never to 
leave. 

The palace servants were two, the gondolier and a 
sort of housekeeper, — a handsome, swarthy woman, 
with beautiful white teeth and liquid black eyes. She 
was the mother of a pretty little boy, who was going to 
bring himself up for a priest, and whose chief amuse- 
ment was saying mimic masses to an imaginary con- 
gregation. She was perfectly statuesque and obliging, 
and we had no right, as lovers of the beautiful or as 
lodgers, to complain of her, whatever her faults might 
have been. As to the gondolier, who was a very im- 
portant personage in our palatial household, he was a 
handsome, bashful, well-mannered fellow, with a good- 
natured blue eye and a neatly waxed mustache. He 
had been ten years a soldier in the Austrian army, and 
was, from his own account and from all I saw of him, 
one of the least courageous men in the world ; but then 
no part of the Austrian system tends to make men 
brave, and I could easily imagine that before it had 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 151 

done with one it might give him reasons enough to be 
timid all the rest of his life. Piero had not very much 
to do, and he spent the greater part of his leisure in a 
sort of lazy flirtation with the women about the kitchen 
fire, or in the gondola, in which he sometimes gave 
them the air. We always liked him ; I should have 
trusted him in any sort of way, except one that involved 
danger. It once happened that burglars attempted to 
enter our rooms, and Piero declared to us that he knew 
the men ; but before the police, he swore that he knew 
nothing about them. Afterwards he returned privately 
to his first assertion, and accounted for his conduct by 
saying that if he had borne witness against the burglars, 
he was afraid that their friends would jump on his back 
{saltarmi adosso)^ as he phrased it, in the dark ; for by 
this sort of terrorism the poor and the wicked have long 
been bound together in Italy. Piero was a humorist in 
his dry way, and made a jest of his own caution ; but 
his favorite joke was, when he dressed himself with par- 
ticular care, to tell the women that he was going to pay 
a visit to the Princess Clary, then the star of Austrian 
society. This mild pleasantry was repeated indefinitely 
with never-failing effect. 

More interesting to us than all the rest was our own 
servant, Bettina, who came to us from a village on the 
mainland. She was very dark, so dark and so Southern 
in appearance as almost to verge upon the negro type ; 
yet she bore the English-sounding name of Scarbro, and 
how she ever came by it remains a puzzle to this day, 
for she was one of the most pure and entire of Italians. 



152 VENETIAN LIFE 

I mean this was her maiden name ; she was married to 
a trumpeter in the Austrian service, whose Bohemian 
name she was unable to pronounce, and consequently 
never gave us. She was a woman of very few ideas in- 
deed, but perfectly honest and good-hearted. She was 
pious, in her peasant fashion, and in her walks about 
the city did not fail to bless the baby before every pic- 
ture of the Madonna. She provided it with an engraved 
portrait of that Holy Nail which was venerated in the 
neighboring church of San Pantaleon ; and she appar- 
ently aimed to supply it with playthings of a religious 
character, like that piece of ivory which resembled a 
small torso, and which Bettina described as "a bit of 
the Lord, Signor ;^^ it was, in fact, a fragment of an ivory 
crucifix, which she had somewhere picked up. To Bet- 
tina' s mind, mankind broadly divided themselves into 
two races, Italians and Germans, to which latter she held 
that we Americans in some sort belonged. She believed 
that America lay a little to the south of Vienna, and in 
her heart I think she was persuaded that the real national 
complexion was black, and that the innumerable white 
Americans she saw at our house were merely a mul- 
titude of exceptions. But with all her ignorance, she 
had no superstitions of a gloomy kind : the only ghost 
she seemed ever to have heard of was the spectre of 
an American ship captain which a friend of Piero's had 
seen at the Lido. She was perfectly kind and obedient, 
and was deeply attached in an inarticulate way to the 
baby, who was indeed the pet of the whole palace. She 
ruled arbitrarily over them all, and was forever being 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 153 

kissed and adored. When Piero went out to the wine- 
shop for a little temperate dissipation, he took her with 
him on his shoulder, and exhibited her to the admiring 
gondoliers of his acquaintance ; there was no puppet- 
show, no church festival, in that region to which she was 
not carried ; and when Bettina, and Giulia, and all the 
idle women of the neighborhood assembled on a Sat- 
urday afternoon in the narrow alley behind the palace 
(where they dressed one another's thick black hair in 
fine braids soaked in milk, and built it up to last the 
whole of the next week), the baby was the cynosure of 
all hearts and eyes. But her supremacy was yet more 
distinguished when, late at night, the household gave 
itself a feast of snails stewed in oil and garlic, in the 
vast kitchen. There her anxious parents have found 
her seated in the middle of the table with the bowl of 
snails before her, and armed with a great spoon, while 
her vassals sat round, and grinned their fondness and 
delight in her small tyrannies ; the immense room, dimly 
lit, with the mystical implements of cookery glimmering 
from the wall, showed like some witch's cavern, where a 
particularly small sorceress was presiding over the con- 
coction of an evil potion or the weaving of a powerful 
spell. 

From time to time we had fellow-lodgers, who were 
always more or less interesting and mysterious. Among 
the rest there was once a French lady, who languished, 
during her stay, under the disfavor of the police, and 
for whose sake there was a sentinel with a fixed bayonet 
stationed day and night at the palace gate. At last, one 



154 VENETIAN LIFE 

night, this French lady escaped by a rope-ladder from 
her chamber window, and no doubt satisfied alike the 
female instinct for intrigue and elopement and the poli- 
tical agitator's love of a mysterious disappearance. It 
was understood vaguely that she was an author, and 
had written a book displeasing to the police. 

Then there was the German baroness and her son 
and daughter, the last very beautiful and much courted 
by handsome Austrian officers ; the son rather weak- 
minded, and a great care to his sister and mother, 
from his propensity to fall in love and marry below his 
station ; the mother very red-faced and fat, a good- 
natured old creature who gambled the summer months 
away at Hombourg and Baden, and in the winter 
resorted to Venice to make a match for her pretty 
daughter. 

Then, moreover, there was that English family, be- 
tween whom and ourselves there was the reluctance and 
antipathy, personal and national, which exists between 
all right-minded Englishmen and Americans. No Ital- 
ian can understand this just and natural condition, and 
it was the constant aim of our landlord to make us ac- 
quainted. So one day when he found a member of each 
of these unfriendly families on the neutral ground of the 
grand sala^ he introduced them. They had, happily, the 
pianoforte between them, and I flatter myself that the in- 
sulting coldness and indifference with which they received 
each other's names carried to our landlord's bosom a 
dismay never before felt by a good-natured and well- 
meaning man. 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 155 

VIII 

The pianoforte which I have mentioned belonged to 
the landlord, who was fond of music and of all fine and 
beautiful things ; and now and then he gave a musical 
soirkcy which was attended, more or less surreptitiously, 
by the young people of his acquaintance. I do not think 
he was always quite candid in giving his invitations, for 
on one occasion a certain count, who had taken refuge 
from the glare of the sala in our parlor for the purpose 
of concealing the very loud-plaided pantaloons he wore, 
explained pathetically that he had no idea it was a party, 
and that he had been so long out of society, for patriotic 
reasons, that he had no longer a dress suit. But to us 
they were very delightful entertainments, no less from 
the great variety of character they afforded than from 
the really charming and excellent music which the dif- 
ferent amateurs made ; for we had airs from all the 
famous operas, and the instrumentation was by a gifted 
young composer. Besides, the gayety seemed to recall 
in some degree the old, brilliant life of the palace, and 
at least showed us how well it was adapted to social 
magnificence and display. 

We enjoyed our whole year in Palazzo Giustiniani, 
though some of the days were too long and some too 
short, as everywhere. From heat we hardly suffered at 
all, so perfectly did the vast and lofty rooms answer to 
the purpose of their builders in this respect. A current 
of sea air drew through to the painter's garden by day, 
and by night there was scarcely a mosquito of the myr- 



156 VENETIAN LIFE 

iads that infested some parts of Venice. In winter it was 
not so well. Then we shuffled about in wadded gowns 
and boots lined with sheep-skin, — the woolly side in, as 
in the song. The passage of the sala was something to 
be dreaded, and we shivered as fleetly through it as we 
could, and were all the colder for the deceitful warmth 
of the colors which the sun cast upon the stone floor 
from the stained window opening on the court 

I do not remember any one event of our life more 
exciting than that attempted burglary of which I have 
spoken. In a city where the police gave their best atten- 
tion to political offenders, there were naturally a great 
many rogues, and the Venetian rogues, if not distin- 
guished for the more heroic crimes, were very skillful 
in what I may call the genre branch of robbing rooms 
through open windows, and committing all kinds of 
safe domestic depredations. It was judged best to ac- 
quaint Justice (as they call law in Latin countries) with 
the attempt upon our property, and I found her officers 
housed in a small room of the Doge's palace — clerkly 
men in velvet skull-caps, driving loath quills over the 
rough official paper of those regions. After an exchange 
of diplomatic courtesies, the commissary took my state- 
ment of the affair down in writing, pertinent to which 
were my father's name, place, and business, with a full 
and satisfactory personal history of myself down to the 
period of the attempted burglary. This, I said, occurred 
one morning about daylight, when I saw the head of 
the burglar peering above the window-sill, and the hand 
of the burglar extended to prey upon my wardrobe. 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 157 

" Excuse me, Signer Console," interrupted the com- 
missary, *'how could you see him?" 

" Why, there was nothing to prevent me. The win- 
dow was open." 

"The window was open!" gasped the commissary. 
"Do you mean that you sleep with your windows 
open ? " 

" Most certainly ! " 

** Pardon ! " said the commissary suspiciously. " Do 
all Americans sleep with their windows open ? " 

" I may venture to say that they all do, in summer," 
I answered ; " at least, it 's the general custom." 

Such a thing as this indulgence in fresh air seemed 
altogether foreign to the commissary's experience ; and 
but for my official dignity, I am sure that I should have 
been effectually browbeaten by him. As it was, he threw 
himself back in his armchair and stared at me fixedly 
for some moments. Then he recovered himself with an- 
other " Perdoni!^^ and, turning to his clerk, said, "Write 
down that, according to the American custom^ they were 
sleeping with their windows open." But I know that 
the commissary, for all his politeness, considered this 
habit a relic of the times when we Americans all abode 
in wigwams ; and I suppose it paralyzed his energies 
in the effort to bring the burglars to justice, for I have 
never heard anything of them from that day to this. 

IX 

The truth is, it was a very uneventful year ; and I am 
the better satisfied with it as an average Venetian year 



158 VENETIAN LIFE 

on that account. We sometimes varied the pensive 
monotony by a short visit to the cities of the mainland ; 
but we always came back to it willingly, and I think 
we unconsciously abhorred any interruption of it. The 
days, as they followed each other, were wonderfully 
alike, in every respect. For eight months of summer 
they were alike in their clear-skied, sweet-breathed love- 
liness ; in the autumn, there where the melancholy of the 
falling leaf could not spread its contagion to the sculp- 
tured foliage of Gothic art, the days were alike in their 
sentiment and tranquil oblivion and resignation, which 
was as autumnal as any aspect of woods or fields could 
have been ; in the winter they were alike in their dreari- 
ness and discomfort. As I remember, we spent by far 
the greater part of our time in going to the Piazza, and 
we were devoted Florianisti, as the Italians call those 
who lounge habitually at the Caffe Florian. We went 
every evening to the Piazza as a matter of course ; if 
the morning was long, we went to the Piazza ; if we did 
not know what to do with the afternoon, we went to the 
Piazza ; if we had friends with us, we went to the Piazza ; 
if we were alone, we went to the Piazza ; and there was 
no mood or circumstances in which it did not seem 
a natural and fitting thing to go to the Piazza. There 
were all the prettiest shops ; there were all the finest 
cafes ; there was the incomparable Church of St. Mark ; 
there was the whole world of Venice. 

Of course, we had other devices besides going to the 
Piazza ; and sometimes we spent entire weeks in visiting 
the churches, one after another, and studying their artis- 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 159 

tic treasures, down to the smallest scrap of an old master 
in their darkest chapel ; their history, their storied tombs, 
their fictitious associations. Very few churches escaped, 
I believe, except such as had been turned into barracks, 
and were guarded by an incorruptible Austrian sentinel. 
For such churches as did escape, we have a kind of envi- 
ous longing to this day, and should find it hard to like 
anybody who had succeeded better in visiting them. 
There is, for example, the church of San Giobbe, the doors 
of which we haunted with more patience than that of the 
titulary saint : now the sacristan was out ; now the church 
was shut up for repairs ; now it was Holy Week and 
the pictures were veiled ; we had to leave Venice at last 
without a sight of San Giobbe's three Saints by Bordone, 
and Madonna by Bellini, which, unseen, outvalue all the 
other Saints and Madonnas that we looked at ; and I am 
sure that life can never become so aimless, but we shall 
still have the desire of some day going to see the church 
of San Giobbe. If we read some famous episode of Vene- 
tian history, we made it the immediate care of our lives 
to visit the scene of its occurrence ; if Ruskin told us of 
some recondite beauty of sculpture hid away in some 
unthought-of palace court, we invaded that palace at 
once ; if in entirely purposeless strolls through the city 
we came upon anything that touched the fancy or piqued 
curiosity, there was no gate or bar proof against our 
bribes. What strange old nests of ruin, what marvelous 
homes of solitude and dilapidation, did we not wander 
into I What boarded-up windows peer through, what 
gloomy recesses penetrate! I have lumber enough in 



i6o VENETIAN LIFE 

my memory stored from such rambles to load the night- 
mares of a generation, and stuff for the dreams of a 
whole people. Does any gentleman or lady wish to write 
a romance ? Sir or madam, I know just the mouldy and 
sunless alley for your villain to stab his victim in, the 
canal in which to plunge his body, the staircase and the 
hall for the subsequent wanderings of his ghost ; and all 
these scenes and localities I will sell at half the cost price ; 
as also, balconies for flirtation, gondolas for intrigue 
and elopement, confessionals for the betrayal of guilty 
secrets. I have an assortment of bad and beautiful faces 
and picturesque attitudes and effective tones of voice ; 
and a large stock of sympathetic sculptures and furni- 
ture and dresses, with other articles too numerous to 
mention, all warranted Venetian, and suitable to every 
style of romance. Who bids ? Nay, I cannot sell, nor 
you buy. Each memory, as I hold it up for inspection, 
loses its subtle beauty and value, and turns common 
and poor in my hawker's fingers. 

Yet I must needs try to fix here the remembrance of 
two or three palaces, of which our fancy took the fond- 
est hold, and to which it yet most fondly clings. It 
cannot locate them all, and least of all can it place that 
vast old palace, somewhere near Cannaregio, which 
faced upon a campo, with lofty windows blinded by 
rough boards, and empty from top to bottom. It was of 
the later Renaissance in style, and we imagined it built 
in the Republic's declining years by some ruinous noble. 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE i6i 

whose extravagance forbade his posterity to live in it, 
for it had that peculiarly forlorn air which belongs to a 
thing decayed without being worn out. We entered its 
coolness and dampness, and wandered up the wide mar- 
ble staircase, past the vacant niches of departed statuary, 
and came on the third floor to a grand portal which was 
closed against us by a barrier of lumber. But this could 
not hinder us from looking within, and we were aware 
that we stood upon the threshold of our ruinous noble*s 
great banqueting-hall, where he used to give his magni- 
ficent y^j/^ da ballo. Lustrissimo was long gone with all 
his guests ; but there in the roof were the amazing fres- 
coes of Tiepolo's school, which had smiled down on 
them, as now they smiled on us ; great piles of architec- 
ture, airy tops of palaces, swimming in summer sky, and 
wantoned over by a joyous populace of divinities of the 
lovelier sex that had nothing but their loveliness to 
clothe them and keep them afloat ; the whole grandiose 
and superb beyond the effect of words, and luminous 
with delicious color. How it all rioted there with its in- 
extinguishable beauty in the solitude and silence, from 
day to day, from year to year, while men died, and sys- 
tems passed, and nothing remained unchanged but the 
instincts of youth and love that inspired it ! It was music 
and wine and wit ; it was so warm and glowing that it 
made the sunlight cold ; and it seemed ever after a secret 
of gladness and beauty that the sad old palace was keep- 
ing in its heart against the time to which Venice looks 
forward when her splendor and opulence shall be inde- 
structibly renewed. 



i62 VENETIAN LIFE 

There is a ballroom in the Palazzo Pisani, which some 
of my readers may have passed through on their way 
to the studio of the charming old Prussian painter, 
Nerly ; the frescoes of this are dim and faded and dusty, 
and impress you with a sense of irreparable decay, but 
the noble proportions and the princely air of the place 
are inalienable, while the palace stands. Here might 
have danced that Contarini who, when his wife's neck- 
lace of pearls fell upon the floor in the way of her part- 
ner, the King of Denmark, advanced and ground it into 
powder with his foot, that the king might not be trou- 
bled to avoid treading on it ; and here, doubtless, many 
a gorgeous masquerade had been in the long Venetian 
carnival ; and what passion and intrigue and jealousy, 
who knows ? Now the palace was let in apartments, and 
was otherwise a barrack, and in the great court, stead- 
fast as any of the marble statues, stood the Austrian 
sentinel. One of the statues was a figure veiled from 
head to foot, at the base of which it was hard not to im- 
agine lovers, masked and hooded, and forever hurriedly 
whispering their secrets in the shadow cast in perpetual 
moonlight. 

Yet another ballroom in yet another palace opens to 
memory, but this is all bright and fresh with recent 
decoration. In the blue vaulted roof shine stars of gold ; 
the walls are gay with dainty frescoes ; a gallery en- 
circles the whole, and from this drops a light stairway, 
slim-railed, and guarded at the foot by torch-bearing 
statues of swarthy Eastern girls ; through the glass doors 
at the other side glimmers the green and red of a garden. 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 163 

It was a place to be young in, to dance in, dream in, 
make love in ; but it was no more a surprise than the 
whole palace to which it belonged, and which there in 
that tattered and poverty-stricken old Venice was a 
vision of untarnished splendor and prosperous fortune. 
It was richly furnished throughout all its vast extent, 
adorned with every caprice and delight of art, and 
appointed with every modem comfort. The foot was 
hushed by costly carpets, the eye was flattered by a 
thousand beauties and prettinesses. In the grates the 
fires were laid and ready to be lighted ; the candles 
stood upon the mantels ; the toilet-linen was arranged 
for instant use in the luxurious chambers ; but from 
basement to roof the palace was a solitude ; no guest 
came there, no one dwelt there save the custodian ; the 
eccentric lady of whose possessions it formed a part 
abode in a little house behind the palace, and on her 
door-plate had written her vanitas vanitatum in the sar- 
castic inscription, " John Humdrum, Esquire." 

Of course she was Inglese ; and that other lady, who 
was selling off the furniture of her palace, and was so 
amiable a guide to its wonders in her curious broken 
English, was Hungarian. Her great pride and joy, 
amidst the objects of vertu and the works of art, was a 
set of ** Punch,'* which she made us admire, and which 
she prized the more because she had always been allowed 
to receive it when the government prohibited it to every- 
body else. But we were Americans, she said ; and had 
we ever seen this book ? She held up ** The Potiphar 
Papers," a volume which must have been inexpressibly 



i64 VENETIAN LIFE 

amused and bewildered to find itself there, in that curi- 
ous little old lady's hand. 

Shall I go on and tell of the palace in which our 

strange friend Padre L dwelt, and the rooms of 

which he had filled up with the fruits of his passion for 
the arts and sciences ; the anteroom he had frescoed to 
represent a grape-arbor with a multitude of clusters 
overhead ; the parlor with his oil-paintings on the walls, 
and the piano and melodeon arranged so that Padre 

L could play upon them both at once ; the oratory 

turned forge, and harboring the most alchemic-looking 
apparatus of all kinds ; the other rooms in which he had 
stored his inventions in portable furniture, steam-pro- 
pulsion, rifled cannon, and perpetual motion ; the attic 
with the camera by which one could photograph one's 
self, — shall I tell of this, and yet other palaces? I think 
there is enough already ; and I have begun to doubt 
somewhat the truth of my reminiscences, as I advise 
the reader to do. 

Besides, I feel that the words fail to give the truth 
that is in them ; and if I cannot make them serve my 
purpose as to the palaces, how should I hope to impart 
through them my sense of the glory and loveliness of 
Venetian art? I could not give the imagination and the 
power of Tintoretto as we felt it, nor the serene beauty, 
the gracious luxury of Titian, nor the opulence, the 
worldly magnificence of Paolo Veronese. There hang 
their mighty works forever, high above the reach of any 
palaverer; they smile their stately welcome from the 
altars and palace-walls upon whoever approaches them 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 165 

in the sincerity and love of beauty that produced them ; 
and thither you must thus go if you would know them. 
Like fragments of dreams, like the fleeting 

" Images of glimmering dawn," 

I am from time to time aware, amid the work-day world, 
of some happiness from them, some face or form, some 
drift of a princely robe or ethereal drapery, some august 
shape of painted architecture, some unnamable delight 
of color; but to describe them more strictly and ex- 
plicidy, how should I undertake? 

XI 

There was the exhaustion following every form of 
intense pleasure in their contemplation, such a wear of 
vision and thought, that I could not call the life we led 
in looking at them an idle one, even if it had no result 
in after times ; so I will not say that it was to severer 
occupation our minds turned more and more in our 
growing desire to return home. For my own part per- 
sonally I felt keenly the fictitious and transitory char- 
acter of official life. I knew that if I had become fit to 
serve the government by four years' residence in Ven- 
ice, that was a good reason why the government, ac- 
cording to our admirable system, should dismiss me, 
and send some perfectly unqualified person to take my 
place ; and in my heart also I knew that thereVas almost 
nothing for me to do where I was, and I dreaded the 
easily formed habit of receiving wages for no service 
performed. I reminded myself that, soon or late, I must 
go back to the old fashion of earning money, and that 



i66 VENETIAN LIFE 

it had better be sooner than later. Therefore, though 
for some reasons it was the saddest and strangest thing 
in the world to do, I was on the whole rejoiced when a 
leave of absence came, and we prepared to quit Venice. 

Never had the city seemed so dream-like and unreal 
as in this light of farewell, — this tearful glimmer which 
our love and regret cast upon it. As in a maze, we 
haunted once more and for the last time the scenes we 
had known so long, and spent our final, phantasmal 
evening in the Piazza ; looked, through the moonlight, 
our mute adieu to islands and lagoons, to church and 
tower ; and then returned to our own palace, and stood 
long upon the balconies that overhung the Grand Canal. 
There the future became as incredible and improbable 
as the past ; and if we had often felt the incongruity of 
our coming to live in such a place, now, with tenfold 
force, we felt the cruel absurdity of proposing to live 
anywhere else. We had become part of Venice; and 
how could such atoms of her fantastic personality ever 
mingle with the alien and unsympathetic world? 

The next morning the whole palace household be- 
stirred itself to accompany us to the station ; the land- 
lord in his best hat and coat, our noble friend in phenom- 
enal linen, Giulia and her little boy, Bettina shedding 
bitter tears over the baby, and Piero, sad but firm, 
bending over the oar and driving us swiftly forward. 
The first turn of the Canal shut the Palazzo Giustiniani 
from our lingering gaze, a few more curves and wind- 
ings brought us to the station. The tickets were bought, 
the baggage was registered ; the little oddly assorted 



LAST YEAR IN VENICE 167 

company drew itself up in a line, and received with 
tears our husky adieux. I feared there might be a re- 
mote purpose in the hearts of the landlord and his 
retainer to embrace and kiss me, after the Italian man- 
ner ; but if there was, by a final inspiration they spared 
me the ordeal. Piero turned away to his gondola ; the 
two other men moved aside ; Bettina gave one long, 
hungering, devouring hug to the baby; and as we hur- 
ried into the waiting-room, we saw her, as upon a stage, 
standing without the barrier, supported and sobbing in 
the arms of Giulia. 

It was well to be gone, but I cannot say we were glad 
to be going. 



XXIII. VENICE REVISITED 

A SHRUNKEN EFFECT IN THE PLACE — QUARREL- 
ING GONDOLIERS — GOOD AND BAD RESULTS OF 
PROGRESS — SURVIVALS AND EXTINCTIONS OF FAMIL- 
IAR THINGS — THE VANISHED AUSTRIANS — PROUD 
EXPERIENCES OF THIS BOOK — A GLIMPSE OF HOME 
IN CASA FALIER — DISAPPOINTMENT IN PALAZZO GIUS- 
TINIANI — FRIENDS, GENTLE AND SIMPLE, PRESENT 
AND PAST — THE DEAR ARMENIANS — THE SOPHIS- 
TICATED LIDO — UNEXPECTED HONOR FROM THE 
MOSAIC ART — INDUSTRY AND ADVERSITY — TYPE 
OF VENETIAN COLLAPSE. 

WHEN I went back eighteen years after I left 
Venice, I did not reacquaint myself with 
nearly all of the churches which had once 
been my intimates. I went to the Frari, and found it 
strangely shrunken, as in fact I found Venice every- 
where ; if it had been dryer, I might have thought of it 
as rattling in its shell. But this was meteorologically 
impossible, and I should not know how to justify my 
sense of the minifying change which had passed upon 
the whole city. The change was largely moral, and 
intimated itself in the absence of familiar faces and 
figures, which made me 2,forestiere in the city where I 
had once been more intensely at home than in any 
other, even Boston itself. Differences, such as I should 
have dreaded to see effecting themselves, had taken 



^ VENICE REVISITED 169 

place, and the little noisy steamers which scuttled up 
and down the Grand Canal, where in my time only the 
plash of the gondolier's oar broke the silence, were still 
so much larger than the gondolas as to reduce the ma- 
jestic breadth of the channel very sensibly. 

They were not so noisy as the gondoliers, and with 
all their effect of exasperation not so quarrelsome. 
Nothing could be so quarrelsome as the gondoliers ; 
and I heard their voices lifted as of old at every ferry 
and at every turn of the canals. Even in the good old 
days, I never heard a quarrel so loud and long as that 
which began one morning at daybreak in the calle under 
my hotel windows. I shall always regret that I was not 
awake early enough to learn the cause of the quarrel, 
or late enough to learn the sequence. I can only say 
that it was carried on with equal volubility by a primo 
tenore, whose voice gave such proof of his insincerity 
that I would not have trusted him under oath, and by a 
basso-profondo, whose word was evidently as good as 
his bond. I could not catch what he said very clearly, 
but I believed every word he spoke ; and I knew him 
for such a deeply injured man that I sympathized with 
him through the long day in which he recurred, at short 
intervals, to the wrong put upon him, whatever it was. 
The joint clamor attracted the guardians of the public 
security, who came down that calle in pairs, and per- 
suaded him to bear his outrage in the interest of peace ; 
but as soon as they left him, he broke forth again, and 
the primo tenore tried to cry him down with more and 
more insincerities, to call them by no harsher name. 



I70 VENETIAN LIFE 

Then the police came back and quieted the contestants 
with soft words and caresses, and appeals to their better 
nature as men and citizens. At midnight they were still 
quarreling, and their passionate explosions lulled me to 
a slumber of rich content in the certainty that Venice 
could never essentially change so long as there was a 
gondola or a gondolier in it. 

That dear friend whom I have mentioned as grieved 
by my rashness in thinking evil of Venetian society had 
come on from his sojourn in Verona to visit me, and him 
I asked why the police did not stop the quarrel by 
leading the antagonists off to prison and letting them 
settle their dispute before the magistrate next day. He 
answered that in the former times, under the Austrians, 
who ruled the Venice I had known, the people had so 
often suffered arrest and imprisonment that now the 
police themselves were unwilling to recall the old foreign 
aggression by like severity, and would suffer almost 
anything short of violence from an offender rather than 
violate his personal liberty. This was fine, it was poetic, 
I thought, and much better than the New York police- 
men's way of clubbing offenders into insensibility, and 
letting them come to themselves in the station-house in 
season to be fined and imprisoned by the magistrate. 

There were other moral changes in Venice which dif- 
ferenced it in 1883 from my dear Venice of 1861-65, 
and one of these was noted to me by the waiter at our 
hotel, whom I asked about getting a window in the 
Piazza to see the procession of Corpus Christi. I had 
always a great liking for that procession, as several 



VENICE REVISITED 171 

pages of this book testify, and I was rejoicing that we 
had happened just in time for it " But there is no pro- 
cession of Corpus Christi," the waiter said, cherishing a 
reserved effect in eye and voice. " It is gone — abolished 
—finished." "But how? But why?" I gasped: "Why 
is it abolished ? " " ^ motivo del progressoy^ he answered 
plaintively yet proudly, with a sensible struggle between 
patriotic ardor for the change which ranked Venice with 
the foremost cities of modern civilization, and a regret 
for the loss of one of her most characteristic attractions. 
In despair I asked if the Feast of the Redentore was also 
gone — abolished — finished, and I was a little comforted 
to hear that no, it was still there in its ancient glory, or 
would be in the third week of June, very much as I have 
described it. I was comforted because I always liked 
being confirmed in any of my reports of the Venice I 
once knew ; for in the passage of the years, and amidst 
my very different American life, I had come to have my 
doubts of much that I had written. I would ask, now 
and then, of a confidential friend who, I believed, would 
not give me away, whether in going to Venice he had 
found my book true ; and when he pretended that he 
had, I was greatly pleased if not convinced. The fact is, 
that in the course of time one becomes skeptical of one's 
whole youth, and Venice had been a great part, a vital 
part of my youth. Now, when I am about to enter upon 
my second youth (or call it childhood), I believe every 
word of the record. 

I was so glad of the survival of the Feast of the Re- 
dentore that I went up into the Piazza and joined the 



172 VENETIAN LIFE 

other sentimentalists there in feeding the pigeons, which 
I used to despise so much. To arrive, I had to pass 
through the Calle Lunga San Moise, and I found here 
another change ^^ a motivo del progressoP The name 
was now Calle Ventidue Marzo, and it signalized a pa- 
triotic event, I forget just what, of March 2 2d. It was a 
shock, and as soon as I got away from Venice I restored 
the name to Calle Lunga San Moisd, which I am glad 
to say it will always keep. Otherwise the ghost of my 
youth which still walks it, from San Stefano and Casa 
Falier, eager and vivid as in 1861-65, would be mortal 
dust blown about the feet of English and American 
tourists, and perhaps even Germans seeking the see- 
ingsworthy things of the different churches. 

The Piazza itself was not changed, except for the 
double row of lamp-posts which reduced its breadth. 
The Campanile, now slowly trying to lift itself from the 
ruin into which it afterwards fell, was still there in a 
majesty not much tempered by beauty, and there was 
the glory of St. Mark^s and the Procuratie, new and old, 
and the three flagstaffs flying the Italian flags instead 
of the Austrian flags or the island banners of a yet an- 
cienter Venice. But now the white coats of the Austrian 
officers and the blue stocking-legs of the Croatian sol- 
diery were gone, and the Italian military sought vainly 
to restore the lost charm of indignity and heartburn to 
the spectacle. I submitted to be offered an infant poodle 
and a small turtle by the traffickers in such wares, who 
refused to recognize a fellow Venetian in me, and indis- 
criminately classed me English with the other Ameri- 



VENICE REVISITED 173 

cans. I actually bought the turtle — it was cheaper and 
more portable than the poodle — and with a leaf of lettuce 
for its sustenance thrown • into the bargain, I meekly 
carried it back to the hotel through the Calle Lunga San 
Mois^. In spite of the provision for its sustenance (it 
was perhaps not accustomed to lettuce in its native 
deeps), the turtle pined and died within the month of our 
sojourn, and had to be thrown out of the car window 
before we reached Verona. 

Other incidents of a more impersonal character were 
not wanting to the time and place. The theatre where 
we had long ago gone to see the Marionettes was in 
the calle that led down to our gondola landing, and 
much the same crowd as that of old hung about its doors. 
I suppose much the same plays quivered and squeaked 
on the stage within, and if we had entered, no doubt we 
should have found ourselves much the same as we once 
were. It was an omission which I atoned for as I could 
by making a pious visit to the Fenice, which was in 
sackcloth if not ashes all the years of our sojourn in 
Venice. With the going of the Austrians and the coming 
of the Italians it had relumed its fires ; but they burned 
dimly on the occasion of my visit, partly, no doubt, be- 
cause an empty theatre never looks very brilliant by 
day, and maybe partly because the Fenice was not that 
paragon of playhouses which the Venetians imagined 
it for us when it was closed in hatred of the Austrians. 
At any rate it looked far less grandiose and far less gor- 
geous than some American theatres, which might mean- 
time have spoiled me for it. It might, however, have once 



174 VENETIAN LIFE 

been larger and finer than it now was, and have only 
shared in the common shrinkage and tarnish of Venice. 
Nothing was going on at the other houses, and I did 
not see again San Benedetto, or even San Apollo, as I 
once heard it helplessly called in a city where every 
place had a hallowed handle to its name. The Malibran 
was doubtless open, but I had changed from twenty-five 
to forty-five since I used to frequent it, and I found it 
too far away from our little calle — as far almost as I 
have now got myself. 

That calle from its gondola landing offered us an un- 
rivaled view of what was at the moment one of the most 
interesting and important sights of Venice : no less, in 
fact, than the Crown Prince and Princess of Germany, 
with their family of tall young princesses, going home 
every evening to their hotel after a hard day's work in 
churches and galleries. Our dining-room windows com- 
manded the whole breadth of the canal, with the Do- 
ganna and the Salute in the background ; and our waiter 
watched the passing boats, so as to give us warning 
when the imperial gondola came by. History had not 
then given the Emperor and Empress Frederick their 
pathetic celebrity, but as Americans we could not dis- 
criminate, and were richly content with the mere fact 
of their imperiality ; any other imperialities would have 
done as well. Yet there was really a difference, quite 
unimaginable, which was to manifest itself one morn- 
ing through the letter of an American lady then living 
in Venice, and still remembered there in honor and 
affection for her love of the place and its people. She 



I.V-. 



•w; ^\ 



trV^' 



>^: 



VENICE REVISITED 175 

wrote to tell the author of "Venetian Life" that an 
English lady then also living in Venice, would be 
pleased to have him come, at the request of the Crown 
Princess, to meet her that evening at this English lady's 
house. The writer added her hope that he would not 
refuse to gratify three ladies, for she was to go with 
him to meet the Crown Princess. Far less entreaty 
than this would have moved him to instant acceptance ; 
and by nothing less than inspiration he asked, ** Even- 
ing or morning dress?" The answer came, "Morn- 
ing dress, by all means," the inference being that the 
princess was to be present in the utmost informality ; 
and in fact the other guests were in any sort of evening 
or morning dress that their engagements found them 
in. It was that English lady's day, though it was night ; 
people came as they liked, and the Crown Princess 
herself wore a bonnet and a dark walking-dress. She 
came in from the tea room with her hostess, and paused 
with the gentle dignity that heightened her somewhat 
low stature, and began by saying in a voice that was 
very English and very sweet, " I think you know my 
dear friends, the Hillebrands," meaning the family of 
the German writer then in Florence; and then she 
spoke of her pleasure in Mr. Henry James's books, of 
which she appeared willing to hear more from my ac- 
quaintance with him as well as them. Presently the 
Crown Prince passed near, tall, grave, full-bearded, 
handsome ; her eye followed him, and she asked, " Do 
you speak German ? " and at the regretful answer she 
added an " Ah 1 " of whatever import ; but it has always 



176 VENETIAN LIFE 

seemed to me that in this moment I missed my chance 
of being presented to the future Emperor. There must 
have been more, but can the reader possibly care to know- 
more of the author's meeting with the Crown Princess ? 
Hardly, I fancy, and at any rate from me he shall not, 
lest I shall have hereafter to accuse myself of invent- 
ing rather than remembering. 

If this was the highest honor to the book in a 
worldly way ever paid it, there was another done it 
which the author might well have been as proud of if 
he were indeed that equal soul he has sometimes liked 
to believe himself. The captain of a P. and O. steamer, 
who had a peculiar kindness for it, made a sort of marine 
picnic in its recognition on his boat, to which he asked 
among other guests divers titles of different nations, in- 
cluding the sovereign lady of a Levantine principality 
and some of those Venetian nobles who in the old days 
of the dimostrazione were so socially difficult, not to say 
impossible. If one were to name names, they would cast 
that sort of glamour on this page which the author 
has always denied himself in his Venetian effects. It is 
enough to say that in a city where, in the early sixties, 
there had been no bolder indulgence among the patriots 
than a conversazione at the house of a distinguished 
Jewish physician, with a long evening, — an evening too 
long for the stranger ignorant of the mystical game of 
tre-settCy — now, in the early eighties, many patrician 
houses were open, and everywhere there were socially 
far more days than the week could hold, with dinners, 
lunches, and teas, out-Florencing Florence herself in 



VENICE REVISITED 177 

the like dissipations. It was the reaction of a people from 
suppression (if the relaxing Austrian rule must not be 
called oppression) which, after it had spent its first vio- 
lence, was still a hospitable sense of release. The wel- 
come to the old national enemy was as cordial as to any 
other foreigner, and Venetians and Austrians, in the 
personal kindness which was apparently never absent 
from their hearts, met at their own houses, and still 
oftener at the houses of the English and Americans who 
bore the burden of the social day. 

I believe Venice has since become a sort of social 
entrep6t between London and Rome, but to such as 
had known her gloomy seclusion in the days of the 
dimostrazione the gayeties of the first expansion were 
incredible. Whether Venice had aesthetically gained or 
lost I should not have the courage to say. If we now 
rather, amidst the modern pleasures, yearned for the 
time when we seemed to have Venice all to ourselves, 
I hope that state of mind will not seem one of an un- 
natural or inconsistent greed. 

There was one incident of our revisitation which had 
a peculiar sweetness and joy. This was the call which 
the author ventured to pay at Casa Falier, with the hope 
that his family and he might see the apartment which 
had once been home, and be allowed to look once more 
from " The Balcony on the Grand Canal." Kinder wel- 
come he could not have had from the people he had 
elected his hosts. They were a young Austrian painter 
and his wife, of the same age of himself and the padrona 
when he had presented her to Giovanna twenty years be- 



178 VENETIAN LIFE 

fore, and they had the sweet enthusiasm of their youth. 
They not only gladly admitted the strangers — that they 
should be strangers there ! — but they let them go all over 
the place, and into every room, and stand on the balcony, 
as many as it would hold of them, and walk on the lit- 
tle terrace opening from their bedroom, and look from 
the dining-room down into the tiny garden, where the 
oleanders bloomed so long ago, when their own lives 
were in bloom. Then the friendly young pair, under- 
standing more and more of this through our respective 
efforts in English and German, brought out bread and 
wine, and offered beer and cigars, and did all they could 
to reconcile the ghosts of our former selves to this en- 
counter with us in their presence. 

I cannot speak so feelingly of the visit we paid to 
that other apartment where we lived after the days of 
Casa Falier, in Palazzo Giustiniani de' Vescovi. We 
were as readily admitted, but when we stood in our 
parlor on the Grand Canal we found ourselves in the 
show-room of a glass and mosaic fabric, where it was 
no great comfort to buy a paper-weight for a souvenir. 
We could not be allowed to see our living rooms, either 
the chamber with the gilded ducal roses in the ceiling, 
or the stately kitchen with its spectacular coppers about 
the walls ; for these places were now occupied by work- 
men busy at their craft. But what would have been the 
use ? Neither Giulia nor Piero would have been eating 
snails from a large bowl, and drinking the inky wine of 
Conegliano at the kitchen table ; and if we could have 
looked from the chamber windows into the rose gar- 



VENICE REVISITED 179 

den below, it is not likely we should have seen the old 
ladies and the old priests walking there. 

Eighteen years make a difference, and more a differ- 
ence in human companionships than human habitations. 
If Venice seemed shrunken, she might have filled out to 
her old dimensions in time ; but the Venetians who were 
gone could never come back. We thought first of those 
who had been closest to us ; but Giovanna was no more 
to be heard of than if the sea had swallowed her ; and 
Bettina had passed through a second marriage into an 
oblivion at her native Dolo which we did not try to 
penetrate. An old and good friend of mine, who had 
gone to dwell at his patrta^ or native town, while we were 
still living in Venice, must now have been in his eighties, 
if he were still alive, and the young and good friend who 
had come from Verona to meet me could tell me nothing 
of him. The youngest of the banker brothers who had 
always cashed my consular drafts was the only one left, 
and I missed sadly the genial smile of the eldest, which 
was more than money. They had all been fervid patriots 
as against the Austrians, and we could meet cordially 
on that ground ; but the eldest had also saved me from 
the humiliation of having to wait till it was known that 
my drafts were honored at Washington before they 
could be paid in Venice. This was the rule of the Ger- 
man banker whom I had inherited from my predecessor, 
and who had established it with all American consuls, 
because a yet earlier predecessor had overdrawn his ac- 
count at Washington, in departing, and left the banker 
to meet the loss. I happened to mention my embarrass- 



i8o VENETIAN LIFE 

ment to this eldest brother, at our first meeting, and he 
said he would be glad to pay my drafts on sight, and 
thereafter I went to his house with them ; not, I will 
own, without some personal regret at parting with the 
old German, who had a thin bent figure, and pale, soft 
hands, and wore a skull-cap much to my mind, and 
used a ceremonial of politeness with me which I inter- 
preted as personal reparation for the harshness of his 
inflexible rule with American consuls. I never saw him 
after I went to the other banker, and at the time of my 
return he must have been long dead. Not so, I hope, his 
head clerk, who, in the days of the excessive discount of 
our paper money, when consuls drew their pay in gold, 
instructed me how to make my drafts so as to cover 
"the loss upon the loss," and really get the due return. 
But for him I might now be a hopeless creditor of the 
nation, with my heirs or assigns of the next century to 
be enriched by a reimbursement with interest, perhaps. 
In the dreamy and casual and evanescent way in 
which persons and things came and went in my youth- 
fuller Venice, I had known from the first divers advo- 
cates, doctors, ecclesiastics, and merchants, seldom 
eventuating in friends, and since become 

" Portions and parcels of the dreadful past " 
quite impossible of recovery. I am sorry I saw none 
of these again ; but I should like to have got at least 
one of them in a truer perspective than my earlier 
inexperience could arrange. He was an advocate by 
profession, and by family he was one of those old, old 
Venetian nobles, who for reasons of state changed their 



VENICE REVISITED i8i 

surnames in the ninth century, and so lost their origins 
in immeasurable antiquity. As we grow older and 
nearer leaving the earth we like more to know how our 
particular branch of the human family chanced here, 
and if I had been of like fortune with this amiable ad- 
vocate — he walked with a swinging gait and a tossing 
head, and could be overheard humming airs of opera — 
I should never have rested with the ninth century, though 
that is a period of no despicable remoteness, either. 

I had once known all the shopmen in the Piazza and 
the Merceria, in my various visits to their places for my- 
self or with friends, and I was known to the whole kindly, 
troublesome tribe of those who came about the cafes 
to sell things, so that when they had saluted me in my 
consular quality, they let me be. Now, however, they 
swarmed upon me, and sharpened the pain I felt at 
being a stranger in Venice, — the pain, the shame, the 
defeat. Even at the foreign bookstore in the corner of 
the Procuratie Nuove, where they had my book in the 
window, they did not, they could not know me ; the 
very ** Guide to Venice," which I had translated from 
the German for the former bookseller, knew me not, 
or was so changed that I knew not it. But for the other 
estrangements we had rich compensation in the constant 
remembrance of our dear Padre Giacomo Issaverdanz, 
who came promptly from the Armenian Convent in 
the lagoon to see us. Inwardly he was quite the same 
toward us, but outwardly he had grown gray with the 
passing years, which had been, some of them, years of 
suffering of spirit and body ; all the years are ended 



1 82 VENETIAN LIFE 

for him since. From seeing so many English visitors 
at the convent, probably, he had grown more and more 
English in manner; and there were little touches of 
worldliness in him which could not offend because 
of his inalienable innocence. It must have been from 
an American inspiration that he had now in hand a 
scheme to buy out a private gallery of pictures at Tre- 
viso, and sell it again in London. I suspect the enter- 
prise did not flourish, for the later undertakings of 
Padre Giacomo were literary as the earlier ones had 
been. Even with this commercial intention, he was still, 
as of old, the gentlest and finest of human beings, and 
we were at once on the old terms of affection. When 
we returned his visit at the convent, we found that he 
was almost the only one of our former friends there. 
The other monks whom we had known were gone, 
alike the plump Padre Alessio, and the pale Padre Ali- 
shan. Now Padre Giacomo himself is gone, and another 
-offers the civilities of San Lazzaro to the English-speak- 
ing visitors. 

The place was not changed, but like everything Vene- 
tian it was smaller than we remembered it. In that little 
bower overhanging the water Padre Giacomo had offered 
us the confection of rose leaves; there in the garden 
salads were growing like those he had gathered and 
washed in the fountain and given us to eat ; there were 
the cloisters and the brothers walking in them. But a 
change was on all, which we tried to feel was not in us. 
The change was more visible, more palpable still on the 
Lido, which used to be so simply and sweetly wild, with 



VENICE REVISITED 183 

a dusty cart track crossing it, between the wattled fences 
of reeds, where the lizards raced or hung quivering in 
the sun. Formerly, you emerged on the Adriatic out of 
the fields intervening from the lagoons, and found your- 
self on the beach, with a bathing house of those wattled 
reeds on the one hand for the women and on the other 
for men. Now you came upon a seaward-looking pa- 
vilion, with a restaurant and a cafe, and all the glory of 
the Specchi, and all the pride of Florian's. You no more 
had the Adriatic to yourself than you had Venice, and 
you had but too probably lost your exclusive rights in 
the Jewish burying-ground at San Nicolo del Lido, and 
the bastions of the old fort overrun with red poppies. By 
this time, very likely, the whole Lido is devastated with 
automobiles, and belongs to the owners of them, who 
now own the whole outdoor world. Already the pretty 
island of Sanf Elena, which had in our time been sacred 
to a deserted convent and church, was converted to the 
sordid uses of a locomotive shop, though I do not yet 
see how the locomotives got back and forth through 
the lagoon. As for the Public Gardens, could we have 
reasonably hoped for the old man reciting Ariosto to a 
group of facchini and fishermen on the grass? Were 
the Hebrew horsemen still violently trotting round the 
only bridle path in the otherwise horseless city? Was 
the Casotto there, a temple to Gambrinus on a little hill, 
and much admired by the Venetians because in a world 
of marble and stucco it was a structure of wood ? I do 
not know whether we attempted practically to solve 
these questions, but I willingly leave the answers to the 



i84 VENETIAN LIFE 

report of some final visit to Venice which I would fain 
live to make. 

What I am certain of is that we went again to Mu- 
rano, where we had been but once or twice in our 
whole four years' life in Venice, and which we visited 
now as a sequel to my meeting with my old friend 
Salviati, who revived the industry of the glass and 
mosaic painting. It is not every one who can be 
embraced and saluted as the founder of another's for- 
tunes, especially when the fortunes have been very bril- 
liant ; but this was the too flattering chance of him who 
in his far youth had helped to give publicity to Signor 
Salviati's enterprise in one of those letters to the "Bos- 
ton Advertiser." Not only was he now hailed a bene- 
factor, but he was entreated to become a beneficiary of 
the art, and it was to receive a pair of beautiful glass 
flagons, and to see them blown and moulded and deco- 
rated, all glowing from the furnace, that he was invited 
to visit the Salviati works in Murano. 

The sight was one which a worthier might have en- 
vied him, and the experience lacked no grace that a 
certain poetic interest of the artists' life could give their 
work. They were father and sons, who had inherited 
their art from their grandfathers, and who blew the fiery 
bubbles into form, and fashioned their opening lips 
and dragon handles, red-eyed and red-tongued, at arm's 
length, with pincers and shears, and the skill that gen- 
erations of their craft had given them ever since the 
eleventh century, say ; though perhaps one had better 
not say so much. 



VENICE REVISITED 185 

I ought to be able to say something about the other 
reviving industries of Venice, but my old consular in- 
ability was upon me, and blocked the way to those sta- 
tistics with which otherwise I should be delighting the 
reader. I heard that there were cotton mills, and work 
for all the poor ; but industry and poverty go hand in 
hand everywhere apparently, and I could not see but 
there was as much raggedness in Venice as ever. Was 
there as much beggary ? I am sorry to think perhaps 
not ; at any rate, I sought certain specific beggars at 
certain corners in vain, not reflecting that adversity is 
as mortal as prosperity, and that those humble friends 
might well be dead with the others I missed. 

Another detail that I missed was the hoops of the 
Venetian ladies, who now went and came as slimly as 
they had once expansively gone and come, and no 
longer blocked the narrow footways, or blushed for the 
pantalettes which the bridges and envious house walls 
betrayed. The women of the people, who had never worn 
hoops, clicked about in their wooden-heeled slippers 
as scantly skirted as of old ; it was their prouder sisters 
who were robbed of the airy bulk which the dirigible 
balloons of the sixties and earlier seventies had given 
them. Perhaps these were a type of that Venice which 
had once seemed so much greater than it now was, 
and in their collapse I ought to have seen an image 
of the whole city, reduced by reality from the pro- 
portions which it had worn in my youthful dream. 

THE END 



CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS 
U . S . A 



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